With women making up a little over half the world’s population, the competitiveness of a country like South Africa also largely depends on how it develops female talent. This starts by companies recognising that women deserve the same rights, responsibilities and opportunities as men.

Nedbank Corporate and Investment Banking (NCIB) has embraced this initiative by recruiting and developing women for and promoting them to key executive and leadership positions, while also developing a talent pool of female bankers.

Nedbank CIB has also launched its chapter of the Nedbank Women’s Forum. The overarching objective is to create an environment that will attract, engage, develop and retain female talent and make Nedbank an employer of choice for women. For women at Nedbank, the forum’s objectives are to:

  • respond to the needs of women by supporting their development and growth at Nedbank;
  • build a community of women leaders by addressing gender-specific competency gaps;
  • amplify the voices and priorities for women, ensuring support and commitment from the highest levels of the organisation; and
  • create engagement platforms that will inspire and motivate women, enabling them to network purposefully and support each other.

All the women in Nedbank CIB are part of the Women’s Forum and the activities are implemented through a committee selected on the basis of the members’ informal leadership competence, commitment to equality, passion for matters relating to women in the workplace, and willingness to make a meaningful contribution towards transformation and equality at Nedbank CIB.

Among the leading female executives who are part of the Nedbank CIB Women’s Forum chapter are Belinda Munger, Divisional Executive: Working Capital Solutions; Molebo Mothibe, Managing Executive: Client Coverage; Arvana Singh, Head: Sustainable Finance Solutions; Reezwana Sumad, Senior Research Analyst – Global Markets; Genevieve Naidoo, Divisional Executive: Valuations, Project Management and Property Finance; and Thuli Zulu, Divisional Executive: Public Sector.

They all acknowledge the importance of not only the Women’s Forum but also the significance of Women’s Month, which Nedbank uses as an opportunity to highlight the progress the group is making to develop female talent and promote women to senior and strategic positions.

Belinda says she is motivated by the transformation of the leadership team at Nedbank through the appointment of women in leadership positions and promoting them. ‘Women are more than likely to lead through inspiration and inclusiveness and I believe, especially in the current global environment, that this trait enables higher levels of team engagement that will result in higher levels of productivity and performance,’ she says.

Belinda has over 23 years’ experience in the banking and financial services sector and has a BCom Honours degree and an MBA. She was awarded the Accenture prize for the Best MBA Research Report in Corporate Governance in 2007. In her current position, Belinda is responsible for growing Nedbank CIB’s Transactional Services franchise by providing working capital solutions to clients. She draws inspiration from retiring German leader Angela Merkel, whose humility, leadership skills and ability to defend human rights are qualities she admires.

‘I can only hope to aspire to her level of competence and sincerity and hope to be able to inspire our future female leaders in the same way. We need to recognise that being humble is a strong leadership trait as, after all, without humility, it will be hard for anyone to acknowledge their mistakes and be willing to change for the better,’ Belinda says.

Belinda says Women’s Month reminds her to celebrate the differences between men and woman and to stop trying to compete. ‘I recently read a Harvard Business review where it stated that although there is a great deal of attention focused on ensuring more woman become leaders, there is still a misconception that they can only do so by emulating men. We are different – accept it and embrace it!

Molebo has two decades of experience in corporate and investment banking, and was recently promoted to the Nedbank CIB Exco as Managing Executive: Client Coverage. She holds a BCom Honours in Economics as well as a Master’s of Commerce degree. One of the highlights of her career was championing Nedbank’s proactive water sector strategy, using the bank’s expertise to respond to the water crisis in South Africa and the broader African continent, working together with the NCIB infrastructure finance team.

She says her success is shared by a community of women, which in itself brings responsibility to stay mindful of how she can positively affect the experience of women in her area of influence. This includes paving the way for increased inclusion and more seats at the table for other women, and support for emerging female talent and mentorship. Molebo says Women’s Month is about celebrating women’s achievements and acknowledging them in their roles, be it as a professional, daughter, caregiver, partner or teacher. ‘It is a reminder of not only the strength and resilience of women but also of the opportunity we have to influence the way that the world perceives strength, she says.

Arvana is one of the youngest female leaders within NCIB. She has more than 10 years’ of investment banking experience and has played an instrumental role in helping Nedbank achieve its purpose. She holds a Bachelor of Business Science Degree (Finance and Economics), is a CFA charterholder and is constantly looking at ways in which she can further herself through participating in diverse initiatives inside and outside the workplace.

She believes that challenging the status quo and exhibiting values-based leadership are qualities that can lead to pioneering and successful outcomes, and this has been part of the recipe for her success. Under her contribution and leadership in driving key sustainable finance initiatives, Nedbank has been recognised for a number of accolades, including the Best Bank for Sustainable Finance. She continues to identify and collaborate on innovative ideas that has unlocked further value for Nedbank and the society she holds close to her heart.

She says being in a leadership position is an opportunity to inspire other women who are looking at climbing the corporate ladder and aspiring to break the proverbial glass ceiling. ‘I am equally aware of the role that I can play in empowering the women around me to grow in confidence and believe in themselves. In addition, by practising empathy in identifying with lifestyle needs, we can all assist in enabling women to thrive further in their careers,’ Arvana says.

For her, Women’s Month is a reminder of the sacrifices made by women that have enabled women in South Africa to enjoy the freedom and rights they have today. ‘In addition, it is a time of year that provides us with an opportunity to pause, reflect and celebrate the power of femininity by honouring the unique roles that women play in society,’ Arvana says.

Reezwana holds a Bachelor of Business Science (Finance) degree and describes herself as a hardworking individual who strives to give back to her community. She joined Nedbank as a graduate trainee in global markets in January 2013, rising through the ranks to her current position of Senior Research Analyst (Global Markets).

Reezwana says being a woman in corporate gives her the opportunity of charting her own identity away from stereotypes. ‘The truth is, for many women, to thrive in all our roles, be it as a mother, wife, partner, daughter or carer, we need to thrive outside of these environments as well,’ she says.

She has managed to offer the best versions of herself both at home and at work, and in the process inspired other young girls to pursue their own professional, spiritual and personal ambitions. Reezwana says women now have so many opportunities to be whatever they want, pursue their dreams, and contribute to society and the economy by bringing their talent and grit to both the home and the workplace.

Reezwana says Women’s Month is an opportunity to celebrate all the incredible women who continue to support and inspire others; and who will ‘undoubtedly leave an indelible mark on our lives’.

Genevieve has 18 years’ experience in the property industry and started her career at Nedbank in the graduate programme before honing her skills at Standard Bank CIB, where she was Executive Head: Real Estate Credit Risk for South Africa and Rest of Africa. She recently rejoined Nedbank as Divisional Executive responsible for valuations and project management in Property Finance. She has a BSc (Honours) in Quantity Surveying and a BCom in Risk Management. A qualified Quantity Surveyor, she serves on the market advisory South African Board of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors and was South African national Chairperson of the Women’s Property Network from 2015 to 2016, an organisation focused on developing and transforming the property industry in South Africa.

She says to be a woman in a business and corporate leadership position means being unashamedly proud of humble beginnings, failures and difficulties faced. ‘It means believing that you can make a difference every day, even though some days you may not feel like it; and it also means understanding that as a leader, you have the responsibility to lead with integrity, courage and honesty.’

Genevieve says Women’s Month is a powerful reminder to reflect on and acknowledge the fight of strong women before us, not just those who marched to the Union Buildings in August 1956, but our grandmothers and mothers too. ‘It’s a reminder to think of the challenges they faced and the adversity they braved, doing whatever it took to ensure the generations after them had better lives.’

‘It is also an opportunity to reflect on your own journey, celebrating the highs and learning from the lows. On this journey, you realise you are much stronger than you think, and you can be proud of the woman you have become.’ It’s the perfect time to show respect to other women facing challenging circumstances and the courage they have to persevere above the odds, knowing that this too shall pass. ‘But above all, being a woman in leadership means making sure we keep fighting the good fight,’ she says.

Thuli has extensive experience within financial markets across banking and asset management, which enables her to drive initiatives and client acquisitions relating to all spheres of government through her team of senior coverage bankers by providing leadership and strategic oversight. She has worked at various institutions and gained experience in asset management and corporate banking, debt capital markets, structured products, debt origination, credit risk management and client coverage.

She credits the support of her mother, who remained dignified and steadfast even in the face of discrimination during the apartheid era. Thus Thuli resolved to leave a legacy by fostering talent from diverse backgrounds and also by opening opportunities for others.

‘My mother wanted to be a mechanical engineer or a doctor but the then government denied her an opportunity to study in those fields. She channelled her frustrations into uplifting her siblings, and later, her children. Seeing her example of remaining dignified and redirecting her focus makes me more grateful for the sheer opportunity to be working in the line of work that I am passionate about and have actively sought as a career.’

For her, Women’s Month means saluting and recognising the sacrifices of the women who decided to forgo their personal comforts to fight for better rights for the future generations. ‘It reminds me that we must show our gratitude through doing our part in fostering a more equitable society,’ she says.