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The GLAMOUR Women’s Month Series is an ode to women who are following the beat of their drum and doing it successfully and Mickey Mashale is one woman who is doing that exceptionally well.

When Maya Angelou wrote ; ’I’m a woman. Phenomenally. Phenomenal woman. That’s me,’ in her poem Phenomenal Woman, she had women like Mickey Mashale in mind. Mickey is phenomenal, and what’s even phenomenal about that is that she has been making moves for a long time and yet not many have made enough noise about her. We knew we definitely needed to not only chat to this powerhouse of a woman for this series, but to introduce her to some who may have not known about her.

Mickey is the Chief Executive Officer of Nexio. a member of the International Institute of Directors South Africa (IoDSA) and holds an MBA from Wits Business School, a Bachelor of Science undergraduate from University of Natal. Mickey has completed a Senior Executive Course with Harvard Business School in Boston, an Executive Commercial Excellence Course with London Business School, and Disruption Executive Leadership with INSEAD.

She also has a number of diplomas and certificates in Telecommunications, Business, Strategy & Marketing and a PDM from Wits Business School, the Institute of Marketing Management, AAA School of Advertising and Varsity College, to name a few.

Mickey has over 20 years local and international ICT experience, combined with a great aptness for strategic growth and expansion, there is no doubt that she is a trailblazer in the ICT industry. She joined Nexio after spending many years as a Sales and strategy executive within Vodacom & Vodafone.

In addition to a very successful career, Mickey is a proud and dedicated mother of three kids who has a deep appreciation for family and the support they offer to her in every aspect of her life.

Mickey talks career, Women’s Month, GBV, self-care and more in this interview.

Which woman has positively impacted you in your career? And what is the one lesson she taught you?

I must say that second to my mother, one of the women I respect and take into high regard is Wendy Luhabe. Wendy is a South African businesswoman, social entrepreneur and author who has served as board chair for several organisations, including Vodacom and the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC). In 1991, Luhabe founded Bridging the Gap, her first exercise in social entrepreneurship. Wendy also founded the Women Investment Holdings in 1993: initiating the participation of women in the economic landscape of South Africa.

I followed her journey and had the honour to meet her at a lecture at GIBS and it affirmed my resolve on the kind of woman I wanted to be and the legacy I wanted to leave to those I come across.

What are the three words that spring to mind when you hear Women’s Day/Month?

For me the three words that come to mind when thinking of Women’s Day are reflecting, perseverance and resilience.

To you, what is the most beautiful thing about being a woman?

The blessing and honour to be able to bring life to me is the most beautiful part to being a woman. It is an honor and privilege to be a mother. Miraculous! Incredible! Magnificent! Blessed! Joy! Fulfillment! Love! Tender! Gratitude! These are only just a few of the words that come to mind when I think of bringing life, childbirth and being a woman.

In your industry or in general, have you seen any more movement to gender equality in the workplace?

There have been some achievements in some areas of gender equality in the workplace over the years. However, a lot of change still needs to take place. In terms of the industry that I work in, we still have a long way to go when it comes to issues of transformation in particular gender equality and women empowerment. The Information and Communication Technology (ICT) industry has been a male dominated field. Whilst technology has evolved, the telecommunication industry has been lagging behind in changing the industry perceptions in terms of gender representation.

In fact, according to the 3rd Report on the state of the ICT sector in South Africa 31st March 2018, only 11% of top management positions were filled by black females in 2017. On the other hand, the 2017 Global Gender Gap Report reflects that only 13% of SA Graduates in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) fields are women. This status has still not changed in 2020. Therefore, as women in leadership positions, we owe it to ourselves to play a critical role in repositioning and transforming our industry to change this picture.

As a woman who looks to inspire young girls that look up to you what are some of the measures you think should be put in place to assure young girls have an equal say in society?

I believe that in our African cultures, we really need to get to a point where it’s not an expectation of the girl-child to be the only one responsible for chores in the household. We must not place the responsibility of absent mothers who pass on automatically to the girl child denying them of an opportunity to be a child that develops into a woman chasing her own dreams. We must change the mentality that the girl child needs to be taken care of by a man because we instil a dependency syndrome very early on. We must encourage and insist on education and acquiring skills to enable them to be independent so that even when they meet their life partner it’s not for dependency but someone they can share a life with.

With Black Lives Matter being at the forefront and black people calling out racism and transformation. What do you think we can teach the next generation about inclusion and representation?

The more we know, the more effectively we can act. We can’t change the world on our own, but we can put expertise at the fingertips of those that share our desire to do so. Knowledge, education and awareness drive and lead to progress and one modest action we can take is opening up validated scholarly content on racism and its prevention, on social and economic justice, on related educational resources and on their effects on society as a whole.

Gender Based Violence (GBV) especially women and children abuse has been prevalent in the country for a very long time and there have been various initiatives that speak to this but the scourge of abuse still continues at a large scale, what would you advise as a solution going forward? And who should be involved?

Gender based violence is a widely known problem that is mainly perpetrated by men and it is important to stress that women alone cannot stop or fight the scourge. Because GBV exists in all corners of our country, in society, at work and at home, the fight against GBV needs to be a collective effort and we need men and young boys to also play a role to help fight GBV.

We should be working hard at empowering the boy child. I believed that if a boy child grows up not expecting to be the provider and unable to handle a partner that earns more income, we would have no issues of inferiority by men.

Ending violence in our communities is a responsibility of the whole community and it is significant that men and boys are active participants and promoters of change to get rid of the current status quo. On the same note, it is also critical to combat not only the individual instances of violence, but also the systemic forms of violence, as violence does not occur in a vacuum but rather in a society that condones and encourages it.

What does women’s month mean to you and what would you like to be done to push or commemorate this month?

For me it should be a month where we all reflect on whether we are doing enough to end the discrimination of women, to end the violence against women. We should all use it as our annual review of our role and where we score below par, put plans in place to do better to be better and to recommit.

Women’s Day for me also represents an opportunity to amplify women’s voices in contexts they aren’t usually heard. In rail, the gender imbalance contributes to a lack of policy implementation and enforcement that accurately reflect the needs of women; whilst there are some changes and improvement, the rate is extremely slow. Women’s Month provides a much-needed space to ensure women voices are heard and celebrated, and that we can build in further opportunities for permanent, growing involvement of women at all levels and all days of the year.

Women’s Day is about three elements: Reflecting on those women who have been instrumental. The women who have been the pioneers by standing up for change. Realising in today’s world, we have so much opportunity to be what we want to be and can be what we want to be if we have faith and determination in ourselves. In the future, the reality is we are all responsible for promoting change, diversity, and a better balance in our workplace. But like all before us, we still have a lot to do and need to stand up and take our place in society, work and home.

As a modern African woman, who is a powerhouse in her own right, how do you maneuver the African expectations for what Africa believes a woman should be, particularly in countries that are rooted in patriarchy like ours?

With respect and humility. I speak my mind, I make sure I am heard, I do so without attacking the person but addressing the issues. I gather my facts, I leave emotion out of issues so that one is not reduced to stereotyping that women are emotional. This must not be misinterpreted as lacking empathy but knowing how to address the issues authentically.

What are some of the great possibilities about being a woman in the world right now, that may not be easy to see but you feel women should take full advantage of without being ashamed or afraid?

The world of work is not dependent on physical strength anymore, we leave in the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) halleluya, where we can still do our manicures, wear our make-up and still be able to build a robot. We are not going to be seen as weak just because we do not want to wear a helmet, overall and boots. Times have changed and the new world order only requires our minds, innovation and creativity and we will be just as relevant. We are no longer subjected only to administration or back-office workplace responsibilities. We have moved on to take our place at the forefront of breakthroughs, but that’s only if we do take the opportunity, run with it and not wait to be given or afforded the opportunity.

The imposter syndrome is something a lot of women confess to suffer from or have suffered from. Have you ever had to deal with it? What would you say to another woman reading this about not letting the syndrome run one’s life in anyway?

I guess from a very young age I learnt to be honest, confront my shortcomings or weaknesses and be clear on how I would address them. For example, when I graduated with a BSc and joined the corporate world, I knew nothing about business. Even though I had the flair for it, I did not want to ever be made to feel I didn’t deserve what I had achieved, I did not want to ever be a window dresser or another empowerment appointment.

I wanted to ensure that I can never be questioned on what I have done, achieved or where I find myself. Therefore, I went into study overdrive, I registered for business degrees and diplomas which I undertook part-time to compliment my technical expertise with the required business expertise in order to ensure that I was well rounded. Apart from formal business education, I seeked the counsel and wisdom of elderly, experienced, veterans of the industry and business to help shape and guide my career path.

My advice is that if you want to make it in life, you certainly have to know your story, be authentic and know what you’re all about. Work hard and always be that person who is willing to go above and beyond the call of duty. Be willing and prepared to go the extra mile and willing to do things that other people are unwilling to do and show them that you deserve to be where you are.

How has self-care contributed to the woman you are in all facets of your life? Why is self-care important, particularly for women, as most of us are raised to believe we put everyone else first before ourselves?

All the stress relief activities in the world won’t help if you aren’t taking care of yourself. You need to take care of your basic needs first if you want your stress relief activities to be effective. I am very selfish when it comes to taking care of Mickey. I ensure that I have my time, if it means I get that during a long run or a swim or a holiday out of the country alone that is what I do. This I do because I do not want to ever look back and feel I have shortchanged or compromised myself as that could lead to resentment. So, I work hard and play hard in order to reward and balance Mickey.

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