Wendy Luhabe is considered one of Africa’s most powerful business leaders. This is in part due to her ability to take action.
This was the big lesson she shared in her talk at the recent #Leaderex2017 conference.
“Part of why I’ve achieved what I have achieved is because I took many risks in my life,” she told the delegates at the event.
Luhabe rose from humble beginnings, almost 40 years into her career, she is today the consummate businesswoman who has, throughout her journey, also focused on empowering other women.
She was born in Daveyton, Gauteng to a single mother who was a nursing sister, and was determined to give her five children an education.
Luhabe went on to graduate from the University of Fort Hare in 1977 with an Arts degree, she also graduated with a BComm degree (one of the first black South African women to do so) from the University of Lesotho in 1981. She was also the only black woman in the Management Advancement Programme she completed at Wits Business School in the mid-1980s.
” I believe that courage enabled me to take on responsibilities that were way beyond my age and possibly experience, as a result, this positioned me for leadership roles early in my life”
Luhabe says she has been able to push boundaries beyond what she thought possible because of one key trait – courageous leadership.
“I would say courage has possibly been critical to my success. I believe that courage enabled me to take on responsibilities that were way beyond my age and possibly experience, as a result, this positioned me for leadership roles early in my life, in a variety of large institutions.
“Courage is very much related to one’s self esteem, sense of worth, self beliefs and overall attitude towards life in general. If all of these are healthy, we are likely to find enough courage to stretch ourselves beyond our comfort zone,” she says.
Here are 9 of Luhabe’s achievements that prove the power of courage combined with action.
1. Founding Her First Business Venture – Luhabe’s first foray into entrepreneurship came in 1991 with the launch of Bridging The Gap, a consulting firm that helped young black South Africans to enter the world of work.
2. Leading One Of The Largest Women-Led Investment Firms – In 1993, Luhabe launched Women Investment Portfolio Holdings (WIPHOLD), her biggest venture to date.
WIPHOLD was the first fund to provide capital to women-owned businesses in South Africa with a R120 million private equity fund that was raised by women.
The initiative is credited with revolutionising the participation of women in the South African economy by enabling more than 18,000 women to become investors for the first time. WIPHOLD was also the first woman-owned company to be listed on the JSE.
3. Launching Africa’s First Women-Focused Private Equity Fund – Luhabe founded the Women’s Private Equity Fund (WPEF) in 2002. It is an investment fund focused on the empowerment of women in business, which includes women entrepreneurs, women employees and broad-based women’s groupings. WPEF was a first of its kind in Africa and one of only 10 women-focused private equity funds in the world.
4. Publishing Her First Book – The book ‘Defining Moments: Experiences of Black Executives in South Africa’s Workplace’, published in 2002, recounts the experiences of black executives in the 1970s, 80s and 90s in the context of the changing socio-economic conditions that prevailed in each decade. Luhabe wrote the book to help solve some of the challenges faced by South Africa’s black executives, managers and professionals in corporate South Africa.
5. Empowering Women In Disadvantaged Communities – The same year, (2002) Luhabe launched her Foundation with the aim of educating young disadvantaged black women, particularly from rural areas.
6. Addressing Female Leadership On A Global Scale – In 2011, Luhabe was invited by Hillary Clinton to join the International Council on Women’s Business Leadership (ICWBL), an initiative made up of women leaders from around the globe with the aim of addressing the female leadership gap.
7. Breaking Gender Stereotypes – Last year Luhabe was appointed Independent Director of the World Rugby Executive Committee, becoming the only woman to sit on the organisation’s executive committee.
8. Leading On A Global Scale – In 2014, Luhabe was appointed Member of the Board at The Abraaj Group, a global investment management firm that invests in growth markets across Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and Turkey.
9. Amassing Numerous Coveted Awards – Luhabe has been awarded numerous top awards including the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Standard Bank Top Women Awards 2015, Woman of Worth from the Jewish Achievers Awards in South Africa and was awarded the Lieutenant of the Victorian Order (LVO) by the British Royal Family in 2014.
All information courtesy of LinkedIn/Wendy Luhabe, The Wendy Luhabe Foundation, Who’s Who Southern Africa, African Success.