What would we do without influential women? The world would be a much bleaker place for sure. We wouldn’t have windshield wipers invented by Mary Anderson in 1903, or Kevlar to protect us from bullets, there would be no Anne Frank, Rosa Parks or Malala Yousafzai. The fact of the matter is women have contributed significantly to making a difference, with their actions and words, and helped us shape our world for the better. Here is our list of the top South African business women who deserve recognition in celebration of this Women’s Month.
Known in South Africa as the woman of steel. She is the CEO of ArcelorMittal, the largest steel producer in South Africa, so the name is fitting. She came in 97th on Forbes’ Most Powerful Women list in 2011 and has garnered an impressive list of credentials from the likes of the California Institute of Technology and the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology. She says, “I suppose I studied engineering at a time that not many women did,” and pioneered the way to improving the engineering sector in South Africa.
Rapelang Rabana is a technology entrepreneur who is conquering the world one step at a time. From the moment she graduated she co-founded Yeigo a company dedicated to providing its users with free mobile calling. She was featured on the cover of Forbes Africa magazine in August 2013 and was invited to speak at the 2012 Davos annual meeting entitled The Future Across Generations. It was there that she said, “my main mission and the reason that I think I am a global shaper, is that I genuinely believe in the power of mobile, the internet and technology, to provide solutions that are scalable enough to impact the millions of people in Africa.” In 2013 she founded Rekindle Learning, an online training and education company, which, according to their website was “founded on the belief that every person should be able to develop their knowledge and learn.”
Sue Barnes was awarded the Clarins Most Dynamic Woman of the Year 2013 when she founded and developed Subz Pads which later become known as the Project Dignity initiative. Many young South African girls can’t afford sanitary protection and miss school as a result of this. Realising the need to give school girls back their dignity without being reliant on continuous donations, Sue Barnes designed, created and patented reusable undergarments that would last the girls five years. With her inventive product girls are able to reclaim their self-esteem and allow them to feel comfortable about going to school.
Another South African women with an impression line-up of achievements. Basetsana Kumalo stepped into the public spotlight when she was crowned Miss South Africa in 1994, but ever since she has earned a solid reputation as one of South Africa’s leading business women. While she was still reigning Miss South Africa she began working as a presenter on Top Billing, it didn’t take her long to become a 50% partner with Tswelopele Productions the television programmes production company. In 1999 the company merged with Union Alliance Media and Basetsana automatically become one of the youngest women directors contributing to the mainstream media in the South African landscape. Tswelopele Productions has since created highly successful TV shows such as Pasella and Our Perfect Wedding.
It wouldn’t be a women’s month celebration without mentioning Nicola Newton-King, as she was the first women in the Johannesburg Stock Exchange’s history to become their CEO. Plagued by misconduct within, Nicola Newton-King was tasked with helping to set the standard for ethical practises. Having come from a law background this was the perfect task for her. She became one of the primary drafters of the Insider Trading Act, recognised worldwide as a leader for a strength of auditing and reporting standards. According to the Global competitiveness Report 2015-2016 South Africa ranked second out of 148 countries for regulation of securities exchanges. The report points out that “financial markets need appropriate regulation to protect investors and other actors in the economy at large.” With the work that she’s done for the JSE, Nicola Newton-King is helping strengthen investor confidence in this country.
If anything these women can teach you today, is that starting your own business is a goal worth investing in. As Rapelang Rabana said in this Media Club South Africa article, "Almost 10 years back I had made the decision to start my business despite the confusion, turbulent thoughts and emotions, not knowing what life would hold," she said. "I dared to listen to myself. Knowing the value of that choice 10 years on gave me great peace."
If you’ve already made the leap towards starting your own business, let us put you out there with the help of a professionally-designed website and other features we have available to ensure you are taken seriously in the business landscape. Make your women’s month better by trying our free 30-day-trialon us.