Empowering women to empower other women

Businesswoman Nolitha Fakude has called for the empowerment of more women. File Picture

Businesswoman Nolitha Fakude has called for the empowerment of more women. File Picture

Published Mar 16, 2024


By Nolitha Fakude

Leadership development, mentoring and coaching are frequently used in organisations and the corporate world to improve leadership competencies and accelerate development for many high potential employees in the workplace.

In a country where 51.1% of the population is female, the latest Businesswomen’s Association of SA’s Women in Leadership Census reminds us that women constitute only 23.1% of vice-chancellor roles at South Africa’s higher education institutions; 40% of directorships at state-owned entities; 36.7% representation in the professional services industry and only 26.9% of directorship positions at JSE-listed entities.

Even as 60% of the government workforce are women, men dominate senior positions. This trend cuts across both the public and private sectors across our Rainbow Nation.

So, how do we address the challenges of less representation of women in management and leadership positions, and importantly, how do we leverage the tools of mentorship and coaching to improve outcomes?

Let us recognise that mentoring, leadership development and coaching are effective programmes to develop an organisation’s intellectual capital and competitive edge.

Many leadership coaches with a passion for inspiring, training and guiding young leaders often lament the fact that many do not make the connection between coaching and mentorship with the importance of the on the job learning. Let us embrace the fact that the workplace is a unique learning environment with opportunities to continue life-long learning agendas.

I know that mentoring, leadership development and coaching are often used interchangeably. Let me briefly define what each one of them means in our quest to improve leadership competencies and address challenges of lack of representation of women in the workplace


In mentoring, an individual with more advanced experience and knowledge – such as a Chief Executive, is matched with a lesser-experienced and knowledgeable individual such as a general manager, for the purpose of advancing the mentee’s development.

This is an effective knowledge transfer strategy and can smooth the mentee’s transition into senior management. Here there can be specific tasks to be mastered or skill-sets that a mentee may need to develop to cope with the development process.

Here the foundation of the relationship between the mentor and mentee depends on mutual trust, respect and open communication.


Leadership development is often used as a retention strategy for competent and loyal employees with high leadership potential as part of succession planning. Here a manager is helped to learn the ropes and develop the insight, knowledge, skills and behaviours they need to be effective and fit into their new role.

The company and organisational leaders inspire teammates and colleagues to apply positive leadership traits to enhance their colleagues’ technical skills and qualities for them to become more effective leaders in their work now and in the future.


In coaching, the coachee is a committed listener, learner, active inquirer and instrument of skills development. Coaches, often external to the organisation, help the coachees to get to the place they want to be from where they currently are.

The coachee defines the objective and the coach offers navigation support, but the coachee is ultimately responsible for his or her learning.

Unlike mentors and mentees, a coach is a facilitator and provides coachees with the necessary opportunities and tools that can enable them to develop themselves. Some academics say the best way to understand the coach is to use a “mirror” analogy.

The coach holds up a mirror for the coachee to see her/his work environment’s assumptions, beliefs and consequences. The coach enables the coachee to select the right activity for the desired outcome. The ultimate goal of a good coach is that the coachee at the completion of the programme will be able to hold up the mirror to embrace the first two – leadership development and becoming an active role player in their personal development.

For organisational mentoring, leadership development and coaching programmes to be effective in developing the leadership capacity needed in our country, they need to be leveraged effectively.


We at the International Women’s Forum South Africa (IWFSA), have partnered with the Finance and Accounting Services Sector Education and Training Authority (FASSET) and Duke University’s Duke Corporate Education (DukeCE) to implement realistic solutions in embracing leadership development, mentoring and coaching.

The IWFSA is part of the International Women’s Forum (IWF), a global organisation of more than 8,000 pre-eminent women leaders in 34 countries, driving a common mission of advancing women’s leadership and championing equality worldwide.

DukeCE is part of US-based Duke University which delivers leadership development to thousands of organisations and governments around the world.

FASSET is the Sector Education and Training Authority (Seta) for the Finance, Accounting,

Management Consulting and Other Financial Services sector. It enables the achievement of world-class finance and accounting services skills. So the IWFSA, FASSET and DukeCE believe that human resource development is a key to building competitive advantage through people and creating high-performing companies and organisations by empowering executive and middle management women in the finance sector on strategic leadership issues. The unique feature of this programme is the direct one on one mentorship and coaching opportunities that the programme participants receive from the IWFSA members.


For three years, from October 2022 to September 2025, the IFWLP aims to empower and develop more than 1,000 women in various sectors and disciplines, including municipalities, financial services sectors of banking and insurance, technology, Auditor General of South Africa, National Treasury , who will contribute their skills, knowledge, and expertise to the economy at large

To date, the two phases of the programme, began in October 2022 with 65 participants. Last year 480 participants who joined the programme and will graduate on March 19 and join the IWFSA Fasset WLP Alumni.

On the day of the graduation, the third intake of 475 participants join the programme on the road to empower more than 1,000 women by April next year.

Upon graduation, they join the IWFSA Fasset WLP Alumni and create a powerful platform for empowered women to empower other women in turn, forming networks that become their net worth paying it forward to leave behind a legacy of infinite possibilities.

Our programme has two courses, the Executive Development Programme and the Middle Management Programme. The two programmes are open to women who are:

● Employed in business within the Finance, Accounting and related services professionals across various sectors including PSET institutions and

● Females within the FASSET constituent sector, regardless of the business division that they have been placed in, are covered.

● Females who are professionals in the Finance, Accounting and or auditing services.

A key component of the programme is the one-on-one mentoring programme where delegates are mentored by globally acclaimed and successful women leaders who are members of or associated with IWFSA.

Our programme, which is designed to nurture and empower aspiring women leaders, has already seen remarkable growth and development amongst its pioneer graduates and current participants.

Building the future leadership pipeline of women leaders in the public and private sector is crucial to a driving economy. Successful women leadership will always depend on voluntary participation from mentors and coaches outside the normal hierarchical relationships, integration with other developmental efforts and commitment to the programme by executive management.

*Fakude is President of the International Women’s Forum of South Africa, the local division of a global organisation of over 8,000 pre-eminent women across 34 nations and six continents

**The views expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of Independent Media or IOL