With Women’s Month having just been observed over August in South Africa, it is an apt time to reflect on women’s empowerment, the progress we’ve made towards creating the space for more representation, and where necessary recalibrate and regroup to build better resources for future leaders. By having conversations around the issues and challenges that affect women in South Africa, and around the world, we can gain forward momentum.
Veuve Clicquot’s legacy of women’s empowerment stems from its pioneering founder Madame Clicquot. Always on the side of bold women, the House relentlessly seeks to understand how the world is evolving and aims to be a driving force, making a real contribution – especially when it comes to female entrepreneurship. Bold by Veuve Clicquot is an ethos, but more than that, it’s a platform that emboldens successive generations of audacious female leaders. This programme of key events throughout the year is designed for inclusion and impact.
In 2019, in a move to be able to enact real progress, Veuve Clicquot unveiled its first International Women’s Entrepreneurship Barometer, delivering insights on the cultural and structural elements that influence women entrepreneurship in 14 countries (such as France, Germany, Japan, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States). The aim was to paint a clearer picture of the state of female entrepreneurship around the world as well as identify common prejudices, mental and structural barriers. The 2020 study, conducted as the COVID crisis exerted pressure on global cultures and economies, updated the status of women entrepreneurs across the world and added insights from three new countries (Mexico, Nigeria, and Switzerland).
Veuve Clicquot believes that breaking down preconceptions, removing structural and societal barriers and providing support and training will enable women to move forward and take the first steps towards entrepreneurship. Launched in May 2021 in South Africa, Bold by Veuve Clicquot’s first iteration in the country took the form of the Bold Conversations conference, a meeting of minds and ideas with the goal of sharing wisdom and insight around women’s entrepreneurship. It also served as a platform to share the findings of the International Women’s Entrepreneurship Barometer, and expand vital discussions. Collaborating in August for the 5th Agenda Women Summit, was a fitting extension to allow these conversations to happen more widely. And through the event, Veuve Clicquot aimed to take the insights to a greater audience and provide a platform for leaders and entrepreneurs to engage.
Agenda Women is a female interest online platform curated for modern working women looking for content and community that will help them navigate the evolving dynamics of working smart and living well through shared experiences. Founder Nomndeni Mdakhi has a history of championing women and established the platform in 2018 to allow like-minded women to connect. Held on 21 August, the fifth Agenda Women Summit 2021 sought to bring together leaders across industries and offer insights and tools for women embarking on the next step of their career journey. Under the theme this year of ‘Self Made’, the Summit celebrates women in all their roles. The drastic changes that have come with the advent of COVID have prompted a lot of transition for many women. By offering inspirational conversation, content, tools and resources to help women navigate their personal evolution, the event looked at various pillars – such as entrepreneurship and work-life balance – and how these factor into the journey.
The event saw Veuve Clicquot’s Bold Conversations panel bring together leaders across various fields to discuss their career trajectories, as well as comment on some of the findings of the Women Entrepreneurship Barometer. Panellists for the day included Dr Theo Mothoa-Frendo, founder of Uso Skincare, an advanced skincare range aimed at addressing the specific skincare needs of Africans. A medical doctor, MBA graduate and pharmaceutical expert, as well as Fellow of the prestigious Archbishop Tutu African Leadership Fellowship, her varied experience has seen her work across industries and her learnings can offer much in the way of advice for young entrepreneurs.
According to the Veuve Clicquot Women Entrepreneurship Barometer, South Africa has the highest level of women entrepreneurship amongst all countries measured – and is more the rule than the exception. More than half of South African women (54%) consider themselves entrepreneurs and the majority (82%) of those who aren’t currently entrepreneurs, are interested in becoming one. “It’s been a challenging but also very fulfilling process. As someone who spent about 15 years in corporate, I then practiced medicine and am now running a skincare company - so it’s been quite an interesting journey, but I think all those previous experiences brought me up to become the person that I am today,” she says.
Yolanda Cuba is Group Regional Vice President Southern and East Africa at MTN Group and Founder of the Cuba Foundation and The Mentorship Boardroom. Her experience in telecoms, financial services and the FMCG sector propelled her to her position as one of the youngest CEOs of a JSE-listed company at age 29. She is passionate about education and inclusive social and financial development – her recent launch of The Mentorship Boardroom signals the importance she places on mentorship, for its ability to steer and support and its capacity for transformation and credits the various mentors she’s had in her life for their guidance.
The Women Entrepreneurship Barometer has highlighted the need for broader sector representation among women role models for entrepreneurship. Nearly 90% of both women and male wantrepreneurs believe that having a role model to look up to is an essential part of becoming a successful entrepreneur. Interestingly, entrepreneurship is most appealing to men (90%) and women (87%) in their 20s but interest declines for both sexes as they get older, signaling how important mentorship is at a formative stage, especially for women.
“I think the best way to describe the mentorship in my life is that it's been transformational. At every difficult intersection in my life I've had someone who I can call upon to ask for advice, guidance, and inspiration. Having people like that in your life ensures that you not only actually deliver to your own expectations, but beyond that. We started the mentorship program to solve the problem that sometimes you don't even actually cross paths with the people who should be your mentors. By creating a platform like this we are hoping that we can impact more people to actually take that plunge,” she says.
Mothoa-Frendo agrees. “I look at mentorship in a very simple manner, it's about guidance and direction and that has played a crucial role in my life. I do however, make the distinction between formal mentorship and informal mentorship and I think both of them are quite important. But one of the best mentors that I've had in 20 years was my former boss in corporate who I think of as a life mentor. He also helped me to create harmony, not just in my professional life but also making sure that my family, my friends all my other interests, live together harmoniously. I would also say, one of the things that makes the relationship with a mentor successful is that I view mentorship as a symbiotic relationship. I I urge everyone to take a step back and also ask themselves, ‘what is it that I can do for my mentor?’. One-sided relationships are not sustainable, in every aspect of life,” she notes.
This notion of work life harmony has come to the fore in the Women Entrepreneurship Barometer, and the study has sharply highlighted the challenges women face in this regard. Despite high levels of female entrepreneurship in South Africa, aspiring female entrepreneurs believe that it's more difficult for a woman than a man to become an entrepreneur (69% agree). And a large factor is the issue of work-home balance (likely because women perform more unpaid, family-related work in the home, than do their male counterparts, making their absence more strongly felt when they are working outside of the). Nearly two-thirds of women (and only slightly fewer men) agree that it's harder for a woman than a man to balance work with their other full-time job: family.
This is an area which Timothy Maurice is well versed in – as an author of four brand leadership books, a consultant and an expert of the science of human and brand behaviour, he understands the nuances of psychology and how relationships and wellness factor into success. He sees a customised approach as the one that works best.
“Each has to define balanced for yourself. You have to look into the eyes of your children and ask, What does it mean to me and my family. And after interviewing hundreds of women for Forbes Woman, for CNBC Africa, every woman has looked at me and said, ‘I've had to define it for myself’ There is no traditional conventional way to think about balance, it is unique to you and your family,” he says.
Mothoa-Frendo has crafted her own personal notion of harmony that works for her family. “Something the other thing that I found to be quite helpful for me is to involve my family in my business. Once they understand my vision, my goals, the challenges I'm going through, and the wins I'm experiencing, they are able to go on the journey with me,” she says.
To watch the Agenda Women 2021 Summit, click here.
ABOUT VEUVE CLICQUOT
Founded in 1772 in Reims, France, champagne house Veuve Clicquot colours life with audacity. More than champagne, Veuve Clicquot is an attitude that sparkles with joie de vivre, embodied by the House’s signature sunburst-yellow colour. Madame Clicquot, the audaciously innovative woman known as la grande dame of Champagne, took the reins of the House in 1805 at 27 years old, and became one of the first businesswomen of modern times. She cultivated a culture of excellence, and adopted “only one quality, the finest” as her motto. Her passion, vision and innate sense of French art de vivre live on today in the House that bears her name. Veuve Clicquot spreads delight through its remarkable champagne range, including the iconic Yellow Label, and La Grande Dame.