Monday, March 15, 2010

"We are the leaders we've been waiting for" -WLC 2010

I attended a conference of diva hotseaters late last week. If there is any reason to re-awaken the potential we all know that we have lurking inside us, then the best way to go about it is to surround yourself with women who challenge themselves everyday, women who break with regulatory myths, women who trample unsavoury stereotypes; yes, women who change the world, one day at a time.

The Women's Leadership Conference convened at the Sunnyside Park Hotel in Johannesburg on 11-12 March 2010. As luck would have it, traffic into Johannesburg was reduced to a mere crawl thanks to a truck having exploded near the Atterbury exit into Pretoria and traffic was rerouted around nearby cities rather than over and through them. I was on my way into the mega-city having been out of town for the wedding festivities of a friend. It turned out to be a rather testy welcome into Gauteng, if you take into account that losing your cool is not the greatest show of survival of the fittest in a city that collides with the shortness of time and has to digest a population of feisty beings intent on making a corporate killing rather than just surviving on a daily basis. Those below the breadline are a mere mirage, an invisible fringe for the most part. A fantastical media report or two at the most. Such is the plight of the rainbow nation governed by the most TENDER-hearted of statesmen.

Time is money and tangents are costly. So where was I?
Aah. And so it came to pass that I was invited to join this gregarious bunch of divas in this neatly carved space for dialogue in Parktown.
I missed Debora Patta's talk but heard snippets for the length of the conference; she being of South Africa's more outspoken, daring media personalities and unsurprisingly Vodacom's Media Woman of the Year for 2009.
Kristine Pearson envisages a world of 'Women Lighting-up Africa'. She is CEO of the Freeplay Foundation based in the UK, US and SA. Noble cause indeed. And much to be made of the impressive vastness of her not-for-profit international organisation and its intent to more than create awareness of the devil of parafin usage in rural Africa and its insistence on gobbling up unsuspecting children in the impending darkness. She lobbys for clean and renewable energy, lighting and job creation for rural women in Africa.
Day 1's workshop was run by Philipa Namutebi Kabali-Kagwa: The Art of Telling Your Story. A powerful orator, Philipa held the audience in a trance of sorts as she went about her talented renderings and interactive sharings.
I sat on a panel that rounded up day one, along with Nicole Wills, founding partner and MD of award-winning advertising and communications agency Stick Communications SA; and Dr Sonia Joubert, academic and consultant in Creativity and Organisational Intelligence. A beautiful thread of conversation ranged from ways in which we might galvanise our own creativity on a regular basis to how to mentor and be mentored in an environment that encourages and unleashes creativity in others. I was happy to work to the theme of the THINK DIFFERENT ad, thanks to a friendly reminder from a brainstormy friend. Crazy works for me!
This theme pretty much carried forth throughout to the end of the two day-conference. It was more than imagination that confirmed the sparkle in people's eyes by the end of it all...

Day 2 began with an inspiring presentation on the mastery of organisational politics by Mardia Van Der Walt-Korsten, Businesswoman of the Year 2009 who is also the CEO of a German multi-national called T-Systems. Mardia cites her key to success simply as her love for life, and her intention to create an environment that puts soul into IT. Her value for humanity in her workplace is infectious as the direct interaction with a woman whose eyes sparkle when she speaks about her life and her work.

Tali Nates from the Johannesburg Holocaust Centre spoke about building bridges and learning tolerance. She spoke about the awareness of being: are we perpetrators, upstanders, bystanders or victims? Choice and repentance were strong themes in her talk.
There could not be a more fabulous way to end the conference than to welcome Prof Edna Van Harte, Dean of the Faculty of Military Science at the Military Academy in Saldanha at Stellenbosch University.
If it is about challenging stereotypes, and if its about a question of whether or not there is a place for women leaders in the military, then I think that she awakened that potential in more than one way.

The conference rounded up with the message of social movement; believe in something strongly and passionately enough, and get something going! Remember this? The MTN Clap :P

Enjoy. And stay with the magic. Its inside of you. Let it Live!

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