Image: Founder and chief executive of 27Four Investment Managers, Fatima Vawda Image by ABSIP

CAPE TOWN - Founder and chief executive of 27four Investment Managers, Fatima Vawda feels that the challenges facing South African women are that they are seen as a threat in the workplace for being "intrinsically courageous" and that they are not given a fair opportunity to be able to do what they want to.

Fatima Vawda says: "50 percent of our population is not provided a fair opportunity to be able to do what she wants to. We have to strengthen the dialogue behind creating progressive, competitive institutions that contribute to leveling the lopsided topography of the sector."

Born and raised in Lenasia, Soweto, Vawda found her feet in the financial sector as her love for financial engineering led her there. 

After she obtained a Masters Degree in Applied Mathematics from Wits University, Vawda began her career teaching Maths. 

"My professional journey can best be described as industrious. Teaching in the prestigious faculty of Applied Mathematics at the University of Witwatersrand at the age of 23 years set my trajectory; that I had to break all the glass ceilings. 

"Opportunities the sector afforded me which ultimately led to the establishment of 27four Investment Managers 11 years ago. I have also worked at Peregrine Securities as a hedge fund research analyst and established a fund of hedge funds at Legae Securities before starting up 27four Investment Managers in 2007. 

"In 2009 I wholly acquired JSE Stockbroker Legae Securities, which forms part of the consortium acquiring Peregrine Securities from Peregrine Holdings. This will see the establishment of South Africa’s largest stockbroking firm that will be majority black-owned, managed and controlled," says Vawda. 

She says feeling uncomfortable pushes her to identify creative solutions that are disruptive, which lead her to the establishment of 27four Investment Managers.

"Recognising that in order to be truly globally competitive, we must be globally competent. I believe in working hard and being fearless when you know you can make a difference," says Vawda. 

She was able to start her business by using her personal savings. The 27four group employs 56 people and the new entity Legae Peresec, following the acquisition of Peregrine Securities by the Legae Securities consortium employs more than 100 people.

On the topic of equality of women in the workplace and the gender pay issue, Vadwa says our environment is constantly changing and for businesses to survive and be competitive they need to respond quickly in order to capitalise on industry evolution. 

"Gender and racial diversity make good business sense. South Africa is ahead of developed markets and many of its emerging market peers when it comes to recognising the importance of gender parity in the boardroom. 

"The real excitement for me is listening to all the women financial analysts and portfolio managers in the industry. To paraphrase Nina Simone 'they are young, gifted and black'. They inspire me to continue to work hard and to build more stepping stones that can lead to multiple pathways," says Vadwa.

- BUSINESS REPORT ONLINE