Thousands of Business Leaders Join Voices of Change


Event Africa Contributor 12/08/2021 Industry Events

Ntombi Mhangwani, Associate Director at Accenture Interactive and
Women’s Forum Lead for Accenture in Africa

In an enormous show of support, thousands of male and female business and community leaders JOINED THE VOICES OF CHANGE 2021 thought leadership discussions to address gender inequality and promote change towards gender equality that will stimulate growing profitable organisations and thriving economies. Voices of Change is more than an annual event – it is an ongoing movement towards change in the workplace where women and men can stand side by side, contribute and benefit as equals.

Ntombi Mhangwani, Associate Director at Accenture Interactive and Women’s Forum Lead for Accenture in Africa, believes that this can only be achieved in an ideal world, where every man and every woman in a position of power – HE, SHE, WE – come together and work to collaboratively and proactively drive gender equality. Mhangwani emphasised that Voices of Change is a genuine movement of change with ongoing change beyond gender, colour or other segregating lines.

Mhangwani explained in her opening address: “In this ideal world, a one per cent increase in the rate of gender equality can result in an approximately three per cent increase in sales revenue. In this world, companies that embrace and implement gender equality achieve 15% more financial returns – more than their competitors!”

Mhangwani painted a picture of what such an ideal world will look like: “Thomas, Busisiwe and Julie are for example hired at the same level, and just so happen to have the same amount of work experience – and are treated equally. The three of them work together, and their work culture respects promotes and implements equality for both men and women, black and white.” 

She explained that a culture of equality leads to increased volumes of innovation, productivity and profitability. In addition, she believes that such an equal workplace culture and a conducive space for optimal personal and professional growth will help attract and retain top talent in a workforce where people are fulfilled and satisfied.  

Although a league of studies exists to prove that such an “ideal world” will certainly establish symbiosis for all involved, Mhangwani quoted statistics that confirm our reality, is, unfortunately, worlds apart from that. Today, women are still only earning 77 cents for each dollar their male counterparts earn for the same work. Women are still underrepresented in the workplace, with 74% more men versus only 47% of women. 

In addition, UNICEF estimates that around the world, 132 million girls are out of school, of which 34.3 million are at primary school age, 30 million are of lower-secondary school age, and 67.4 million could be attending upper-secondary school. 

Mhangwani pointed out that at the current rate, none of us will see gender parity in our lifetimes. She quoted the World Economic Forum (WEF), which predicts that the overall gender gap will only close in 99.5 years if we continue the same trajectory. She also mentioned that these global trends are no different in Africa and South Africa. Mhangwani states: “Stats SA found that women’s unemployment exceeds that of men by more than four percent. The WEF prediction is that only in 217 years from now will we all be on equal pay.”

The need for all the inequality to change was precisely what inspired the founding of the Voices of Change movement in 2017 when 200 women attended the inaugural event. This initial event grew in leaps and bounds to more than 5000 women and men participating in today’s milestone event on this wave of change. The movement is now also backed by best-of-breed partner brands who put their everyday competitive differences from the marketplace aside for the sake of enabling change. Accenture, AECI, AngloGold Ashanti, Aspen, Astron Energy, Business Engage, FNB, Imperial, Life Healthcare, Nedbank, Pfizer, Refinitiv, RMB, Vodacom and Wesbank are all partners in Voices of Change.

She believes this much-needed wave of change goes beyond the sentiment, as business gender equality makes good business sense and directly leads to financial growth. However, this can only truly be accomplished when we unlock the power of – HE-SHE-WE. “Today is not about women talking with women about women in work. Today is about the power of ‘WE’… Only when WE all join forces can we truly reap the sweet fruits of equal labour… WE have a voice… Let us be the voice of the world we want to live in,” concludes Mhangwani.

Ntombi Langa-Royds, Independent Non-executive Director at Redefine Properties Limited, added to Mhangwani’s views on the importance of collaboration and what that could achieve and look like in an ideal world – from a personal perspective. “The ability to collaborate, she believes, begins with ‘me, myself and I’ – it drives your ability to collaborate and work with others. This is then complemented by the ability to identify what actions you have to take to ensure that you can achieve your goals through these collaborations,” she says. 

She explains that, regardless of whether it is in personal or professional relationships, collaborating does not mean that you need to subvert yourself, change yourself, or become a different person. “What it does mean to me is expressing myself so that others feel empowered, or as captured by Marianne Williamson, I think, shining your light in such a way that it does not make others feel inadequate,” says Langa-Royds. She also highlighted that collaborations are not supposed to serve your own goals only but that it must also take our societal needs and something bigger than ourselves into consideration.

The need for all the inequality to change was precisely what inspired the founding of the Voices of Change movement in 2017 when 200 women attended the inaugural event. This initial event grew in leaps and bounds to more than 5000 women and men participating in today’s milestone event on this wave of change. The movement is now also backed by best-of-breed partner brands who put their everyday competitive differences from the marketplace aside for the sake of enabling change. Accenture, AECI, AngloGold Ashanti, Aspen, Astron Energy, Business Engage, FNB, Imperial, Life Healthcare, Nedbank, Pfizer, Refinitiv, RMB, Vodacom and Wesbank are all partners in Voices of Change.