Navigating the Corporate Jungle as a Lioness

Navigating the Corporate Jungle as a Lioness

Hawa Charfaray, CEO and Founder of Training Excellence, now 20 years in establishment in South Africa and Middle East. Since Hawa last appeared on our Cover of Covered Magazine, almost 1 year ago, much has happened in her business and career since earning her the title of the Lioness of Africa.

Looking back, so much has transpired as Hawa has also founded and launched AWoP (African Women of Power), a Division of Training Excellence, a platform for Women Development and Leadership.

The African Women of Power (AWoP) platform, is one where entrepreneurs and particularly women entrepreneurs can build a foundation of making new friends and extending business networks across the globe. Their presence in the platform is not just about Networking, but rather on the foundation of Development and Growth, demonstrating a collective commitment to moving women entrepreneurs forward in this colossal jungle we know as business.

Fortunately, the rules of this jungle are changing – although slow and not as fast as we would like. However, note that it certainly is changing. No longer is the lion the only head of the jungle. The lioness has awakened, with an amazing courage and perseverance – she displays raw ambition, with a tenacious focus on the hunt, while still maintaining her beauty, compassion and grace.  The lioness leads, roams and hunts around us, unafraid and undeterred by the diversity of other competitors as she confronts risks head-on, with sheer tenacity and will.

Her strength is inspiring and even while others pretend not to notice, they dare not underestimate her capability or take her for granted. If wounded, she would never give up. Instead she learns from her mistake. As Oprah Winfrey simply states, “Turn your wounds into wisdom.”  A lesson that comes instinctively to the successful lioness.

When the lioness overcomes her battles, she celebrates her win as spectacularly as she engages in the hunt – taking time out as she basks in the glory of her deserving success, as others acknowledge and celebrate her – as celebrated by Hawa’s vision of creating many more Lionesses in the Corporate and Private Sector.

Research from the World Economic Forum indicates that despite many amazing achievements of women in Africa, it will be 118 years before women have the same prospects as men as the male dominated jungle of business generally still excludes, underpays and exploits this talented creation. It is therefore, pleasing to note that South Africa, my country of birth, is placed 19th out of 144 countries, in the World Economic Forums 2017 Global Gender Gap Index, making SA the third most gender equal country in Sub-Saharan Africa after Rwanda and Namibia.

Having started my own business as a South African, more than twenty-years ago I can attest to the challenges that a lioness can face in this vicious yet spectacularly rewarding jungle of business.

Like a flowing river in a massive jungle, I have found that starting a business and pursuing one’s path is not always easy.  It calls for focus, hard work and the perseverance to work with the current state of affairs, even when you find difficulties in your journey. Trusting in yourself and your purpose, will allow you to flow into greatness as you reap the benefits from the river like the fish that swim in its belly. If in luck you will go on to build a bridge to enable others to follow. And once you look beyond the flow of the river and envision the sea, you will aim to achieve your greater purpose in life. As Scott Rancor in his book called “Navigating the Corporate Jungle: How to avoid getting bitten, poisoned or Worse,” states that “A jungle has hazards that are nature based such as poisonous plants, quick sand, and natural disasters like floods, fires and storms. Companies large and small have these same challenges.” I personally have learned through my corporate journey that I too have had to deal with these so-called Floods, Quick Sand, fires and Storms in the Corporate Jungle. And off course not forgetting the beasts of the Corporate Jungle. For each one of us those beasts show up differently.

To ensure that I can add value to others, it remains important that I continue to grow as an individual and a professional. This means continuously investing in myself. As Indra Nooyi, CEO of Pepsi-co has said, “If you want to improve the organization, you have to improve yourself, and the organization gets pulled up with you.” In so doing, I have launched the African Women of Power (AWoP), a division of Training Excellence to ensure that many more women are able to develop themselves equally in this jungle.

It is important to acknowledge at this point that all this would not have been possible had I not established and negotiated a robust support network. My Family and Amazing life and Business Partner Rasheed Charfaray. They say that behind every successful Man, there is a woman. In my case behind my success is my amazing husband and partner. I have also partnered with Organisations in Mauritius, Dubai, and London to ensure that we provide a platform for women to create their navigation in the Jungle more robust.

Members to AWoP will have access to these partners to grow their businesses and attend workshops, seminars and be recognised on an International level. Members will also have access to quarterly training on leadership, monthly coaching and industry specific mentors. AWoP is therefore more than a Business Networking platform.

This month in October AWoP launches its first of Annual Women Conference African Women of Power (AWoP) Leadership Conference  which will be held in Mauritius 27th October 2018, being  put together by  NKG  Training Solutions in partnership with African Women of  Power, a division of Training Excellence South Africa.

The Conference will be held at the Intercontinental,  Balaclava, Mauritius, on 27th October 2018, with the  theme: CONFRONTING BARRIERS TO WOMEN’S ECONOMIC,  SOCIAL, FINANCIAL, PERSONAL AND CULTURAL SUCCESS.

Creating a platform for women in Africa to discuss gaps and  issues affecting them in various areas of their lives, is an  effort to address the economic,  social and financial  challenges that African women are faced with.

With nearly 1 in 3 Africans between the ages of 10 and 24,  and approximately 60 percent of Africa’s total population  below the age of 35, Africa has the largest percentage of  youth in the world.

But sadly, the continent is faced with the significant task of turning  the youthful population into an asset. Despite constituting over  half of the youth population, women’s issues are not given the  priority they deserve. It is notable that both young and older  women are still under-represented in civic spaces,  including  politics, the economy, social affairs, and in science and technology.  Women are derailed from realizing their potential by challenges  such as limited access  to education, training, mentorship and  coaching into boardroom level and Executive Presence leadership.

The Conference therefore aims at bringing together empowered  and influential women who have succeeded in their professional  and personal lives, and who embody the qualities of leadership in  displaying active, creative and integrative efforts in achieving  success at personal, national, and regional levels, to deliberate on  ways of inclusion and empowerment of women in the mainstream  economy through skills development, enterprise development,  entrepreneurship projects and improving young women’s access  to mentors and incubators

There is nothing more fulfilling than helping someone to realize their inner potential. Giving someone the tools to communicate and alter their behaviour and the way they approach the world in order to achieve more than they could ever have imagined.

While my business continues to transform, it has and continues to teach me significant professional and life lessons – lessons that require me to adjust my flow while I still maintain my course.

The first of which is the reality that in this jungle there could be a den of thieves – and therefore trust amongst people should be earned and not assumed. This was an expensive financial lesson learnt after I had invested heavily in two separate partnerships with people who had regrettably not fulfilled their end of the deal.

The second is advancing and achieving growth in business through collaboration with like-minded people. For women we tend to struggle with collaboration compared to our male counterparts. Most times we haven’t found the confidence in ourselves or our products and therefore trust that we can do it all. As we have not learned to trust and move on. Collaboration is extremely labour intensive. And we are generally not patient enough to work through the relationships and challenges of the jungle.

Thirdly, I don’t personally believe in the concept of work-life balance as I view work and life as a unified system rather than competing systems. Especially for me as a Women. To achieve this requires one to firstly establish a support network and then to negotiate time with family and friends.  For example, I negotiated support from family and friends to help with my children when needed so I could remain focused on both my career and family. I did not see motherhood or been a wife as a burden or something I must choose over and above my career. I saw it as a natural form of my makeup and therefore aimed to succeed.

Fourthly, the importance of investment, capital and sufficient cash-flow is fundamental as a foundation and stepping stone to financial sustainability. It continues to remain challenging in a male dominated world particularly for a small business. Therefore, it is important to obtain financial coaching and advice early on in your career.

Lastly, the importance of setting a vision. Set goals, develop a plan and work at achieving that purpose. Having said that, remember you might have to change direction every so often when you confront challenges. Be flexible and don’t give up on your higher purpose. Know your Jungle! Make Organisational health a Strategic Priority:

I am grateful to have learnt and to have grown from my journey – from the combined strength of my husband, family, clients and friends and from the memory of my loving children.

Like the flow of a great river, this jungle of business may be fast and dangerous in places requiring the courage to maneuver through its fearless rapids, but it likewise slows down to a flow where we can enjoy the beauty of the journey and equally reap its rewards.