Recently, Standard Bank hosted its second annual Women in Innovation Event, inviting successful, driven businesswomen and entrepreneurs, academics and artists to celebrate and encourage innovation through inspirational storytelling. The event was held at the bank’s business incubator in Rosebank.
Speakers at the initiative included Jayshree Naidoo, Head of the Standard Bank Incubator and part of the bank’s Innovation and Capability Team; Paul Steenkamp, Standard Bank’s Head of Innovation and Capability; Reshoketswe Mapokgole, speaker and academic; poet and gender activist Lebo Mashile; Puno Selesho, law student and inspirational Spoken-Word artist; and Melanie Hawken, founder and editor-in-chief of Lionesses in Africa, an online platform that raises the profile of woman entrepreneurs throughout Africa.
The speakers shared their personal experiences on a number of different topics – from the need for women mentors to the destructive force of sexism in society. With the prevailing message being the same; that your highest desires are within your reach.
Ms Naidoo highlighted innovation as a key practice for entrepreneurs. She also encouraged women entrepreneurs to collaborate in order to ignite innovation that will move South African women, and thus South Africa, forward.
This encouragement of innovation in the form of acknowledging and assisting female-owned enterprises and business achievements is leading to much-needed feminine empowerment; however, it is notable that women still face many obstacles in business and in the workplace.
Fortunately, as the Women in Innovation Event shows (and other initiatives that encourage and drive collaboration between women) women in South Africa have many allies in the struggle for economic equality and intellectual recognition, allies that include Liberty, the event’s co-sponsor.
Though gender and racial stereotypes and prejudices still persist throughout Africa and the world, there is much hope and the future is promising for female entrepreneurs and activists.
The dynamic Ms Selesho’s passion and flair with the spoken word moved the other attendees to support her drive to collect over 100 matric dresses for a social cause, serving as an example of the motivational and persuasive skills women possess – skills that are vital in commerce.
Furthermore, there has never been a better time to be a women entrepreneur in Africa, according to Ms Hawken. She informed the group that there is an emergence of woman-founded and led micro-multinationals that are taking the world by storm and empowering their communities while doing so. This, she says, is due to general business savvy and drive, but also the marketing power of social media.
For the first time in history, every entrepreneur has the power to access global markets and build their brands on a smart phone and with a minimal budget.
And thus, innovation, leading to new forms of technology, has opened up opportunities for women in Africa.