Naspers's South Africa CEO on improving representation of women in the tech sector

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Naspers South Africa CEO Phuthi Mahanyele-Dabengwa. (Supplied, Naspers)
Naspers South Africa CEO Phuthi Mahanyele-Dabengwa. (Supplied, Naspers)

Phuthi Mahanyele-Dabengwa, Naspers's South Africa CEO, Deputy Governor of the South African Reserve Bank, Fundi Tshazibana, and the Chief Sustainability Officer of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, Shameela Soobramoney were on a panel discussion moderated by Bloomberg SA Bureau Chief Amogelang Mbatha for the launch of "Bloomberg New Voices" in South Africa.

Bloomberg New Voices is a "global initiative to increase the visibility of women and other under-represented executives in finance and business across media platforms".

Bloomberg launched the programme for the first time in Johannesburg with a virtual event held on Tuesday, 30 March 2021 to commemorate the expansion.

During the discussion, Ms Mahanyele-Dabengwa was asked about her experience in one of the world's top tech groups—a field dominated by males. While acknowledging the substantial gender gap in the sector, she said she "thoroughly enjoyed being part of one of the largest technology investors in the world and the largest company on the JSE, which continues to make significant contributions to the country". She added that currently, one-third of the Naspers Board are women.

She said there was a need to "re-write the current narrative", but it meant more than simply opening doors for junior women in the organisation.

"There is more to it, and this goes to the heart of my passion for mentorship," she explained. "Mentoring is not simply assigning someone a task. It is always a reciprocal relationship. By that, I mean it is about engaging with co-workers and being inclusive and collaborative."

Mahanyele-Dabengwa pointed out that Naspers aimed to drive change on gender equality globally in the tech industry, recognising that leaders hold the power to make the change and that an engagement of both "head and heart" is required.

"Achieving gender—or racial—equity is about changing behaviour, removing the biases and prejudices within the structure of the organisation so that diversity and inclusion are the norm," she said.

Asked about women-led investments supported by Naspers, she spoke about Naspers Foundry, a R1.4 billion investment vehicle that partners with exceptional entrepreneurs to build tech businesses with platform potential that can scale in high-growth markets to become successful businesses.

She spoke about the R30 million investment in SweepSouth, a global home services platform connecting homeowners and service providers, including domestic cleaners and home maintenance services personnel.

Naspers, she re-iterated, believes that digital transformation can help women overcome many barriers and enable a more inclusive society. She cited elearning platforms enabling remote learning and providing access to knowledge previously denied them, or the finance and banking platforms that have helped women manage their finances independently.

Her final message was, "We must always remember that our strength is not found in fearing the strength of others. Our strength is in our willingness to celebrate it. By embracing and encouraging diversity and inclusion, we all become better and stronger."

Click here for the discussion.

This post was sponsored and supplied by Naspers.

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