Reflections on Women’s Month
5 August 2019 - johannesburg

We’re at the beginning of August now and yup, half of 2019 has already gone, and how quickly it has flown by. This year has led me to thinking about the many different perspectives and opinions held by people in working to realise the sustainable development goals and create change through impact investing. The month we are stepping into now, global Women’s Month, is an important month to take a step back and think about inclusivity and the importance of empowering women through our work.

In my own experience, social entrepreneurship attracts many female founders and co-founders. While conventional businesses or startups globally that are focused primarily on the bottom-line usually have more male founders, in the realm of social entrepreneurship, the reality is the opposite. Hooray for this new reality we are stepping into!

Research supported by the INSEAD-Wharton Alliance, Gender Bias, Social Impact Framing, and Evaluation of Entrepreneurial Ventures by Matthew Lee and Laura Huang shows that hat female-led ventures were overall perceived as less viable than male-led ventures, thus attracting less venture capital. However, their work suggests a new tool that female founders with a social mission may use to avoid gender discrimination. Their research shows that, for women, talking about social impact can be a significant source of strategic advantage.

Feminine leadership seems to result in a much more holistic way of looking at the world, on running a business, and on how we can work on multiple challenges at once. The female ethos is also about problem-solving and empathy, and this very much resembles the ethos of a social enterprise with a triple bottom-line.

The grant and cause-based NGO paired with the revenue-based startup merges into a very human-centered organism that creates a business out of what the world needs and the solutions it creates for the challenges that we all face. This is very encouraging! I see this process in action every day when working with and leading the efforts to support social entrepreneurship and social enterprises at Impact Hub Joburg. These solutions that our entrepreneurial community creates blow me away and the women behind them do just as much!

We’re seeing amazing solutions come from our South African Accelerate2030 cohort, and also through the 2019 edition of Impact Launchpad, which is focused on education, but also through our partners, and our network and I definitely also see a wave of positive change shaping society in South Africa and beyond. Last week’s event that took place at Impact Hub Joburg, Shifting the System, by our partners, the Bertha Centre for Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship, in partnership with the University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business, is a perfect example of this change. We had 4 amazing system-changers in the house interacting with over 140 participants regarding the challenges they are facing in their work around human rights, impact investing, climate justice & social entrepreneurship in townships.

What was the coolest part of all this? 3 of them were awesome female leaders! Aunnie Patton Power lead the pack as the Founder of Intelligent Impact and she spoke on development finance and finding new ways to drive change. Catherine Constantinies, Lead SA Executive, Founder of, and Director at Miss Earth SA, and Co-Founder of Generation Earth, a youth-led environmental organisation, spoke about driving social change through positive action. Find her on all social media platforms as @ChangeAgentSA. Shamillah Wilson, Inner Activist Coach supporting those who want to live life full on, and the Founder/CEO of the Project Ignition non-profit, spoke to the audience about how to overcome feeling overwhelmed. We absolutely cannot forget the important contributions of the “township guy” Elvis Sekhaolelo, Founder of eKasi Entrepreneurs and Township Access, who spoke to us on harnessing entrepreneurship to drive positive change and development – Super important work for township inclusion.

I also see that when women gather together to work and share visions and synergies. When that happens, something magical occurs. Not because we leave men out, but because women are sometimes different when there are no men to measure up against. It is easier to speak about gender bias, equal pay, workplace patriarchy, juggling motherhood and work, and overall more challenges that reflect upon our ability to empower women globally. I spoke at an all-female conference this July, Moving into Mastery – Women in Tech & Digital Conference 2019, and even though there were men in the audience the energy from this all-female speaker and panel line-up made it special. The female ethos, the holistic approach to business, women shaping the future of work, realising equal pay, are all driving forces for meaningful social change that will really solve the global challenges we face. This conference, and also being a mother, made me think more about gender equality, having children, having a business or being employed and how excluded mothers can be in the workplace and in the business world in general.

I personally would like for the workplace to be more inclusive even for mothers. We are not all blessed with endless maternity leave and it is not yet socially-accepted in South Africa to bring a child to work even if it is an emergency. Yet we can even see the United States Senator from Illinois, Tammy Duckworth bring her 10-day old baby to the Senate floor.

I really want to take a step forward to change the reality for working mothers in South Africa. We are mothers and business owners or employees and that’s ok. I would love to see more mothers feeling included and being able to attend a meeting or an event even though the baby is small or the nanny didn’t show up, or to be able to take a work-related call without people being bothered by the kids in the background. Together, let us make an effort so that mothers can feel socially-accepted at work.

That’s why we are implementing a mobile Mama Emergency Room at Impact Hub Joburg. There will be space to change a nappy, feed baby or shelter a sleeping baby while mama is attending that important meeting or event that she so wanted to be part of.

Let us go into Women’s Month by celebrating female change-makers and make a joint effort to include all women!

Thandi Dyani