Transformation stories from a corporate activist
"Nolitha Fakude’s story is a masterclass in how success might be achieved." - Dr Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Director of UN Women
Corporate activist and inspirational business woman, Nolitha Fakude, has spent her 29-year career focusing on the development of women and marginalised communities in the workplace and society. A passionate advocate for diversity and inclusion, she has been best known for driving transformation. She was also managing director and then president of the Black Management Forum (BMF) from 2003 to 2006.
From 1 September 2019, Nolitha has taken an executive position as Group Director and Chairman of Anglo American’s Management Board – the largest mining company in South Africa.
In her forthcoming memoir, Boardroom Dancing, Nolitha tells the story of her corporate life – from her childhood as a shopkeeper’s daughter in the Eastern Cape, to her very senior positions at some major blue-chip companies, including Woolworths, Nedbank and Sasol. Nolitha presently serves on numerous boards including the JSE Limited and Afrox Limited.
Boardroom Dancing is her personal journey, as well as a lesson for South Africans committed to the transformation of boardrooms and the economy. This will be an inspirational book for women looking for role models in their journey through the corporate world.
A note from Nolitha Fakude on the journey to writing the book.
After being on this earth for more than five decades, surely I had earned the right to tell ‘Our story’ of corporate South Africa’s transformation from my perspective, for My story is Our story. My story is a tale of many shared experiences that so many of us who grew up in South Africa pre-1994 with affirmative action and post-1994 with employment equity know so well. As much as the characters I describe along my journey may be completely different to yours, so, too, might they be familiar, or even shockingly close.
It should come as no surprise that this memoir demonstrates that in my case the ‘personal is political’, both at home as well as professionally. As I moved between the different boardrooms that I was involved with at the time, the political context was always there. The black economic empowerment and transformation mandate was implicit in everything I (we) did. Against many odds, as black professionals in the 90s and black women professionals in particular, we had everything thrown at us to slow down our career trajectories, from comments about our engagement style (perceived as aggressive and not assertive), to comments about our heavy African accent and including the label of not being ‘ready’ every time an opportunity for promotion presented itself. It took great tenacity but we thrived and excelled, not least because we knew that anything less would reinforce the negative stereotypes at play at the time.
Embarking on this process of writing down the years has been challenging and the journey a cathartic one. I’ve had more moments of reflection and understanding of the meaning of why and how certain people came into my life in the last 24 months than I’ve had in my entire life. As a result, there are probably more books in the proverbial pipeline, and many stories still to be told that I have deliberately not included in this memoir. With some stories, it’s a question of timing, while others will forever be buried in my heart and mind and will never see the light of day. During this journey and time of reflection I’ve laid a lot of ghosts to rest but also woken up a few sleeping dogs. From when I was a child, I’ve always believed that I’ve led a charmed life regardless of what challenges I have faced. Writing this book has confirmed this further for me. As a result, I’m also crystal clear about my purpose in life. I am convinced that kindness in itself is the religion I subscribe to and of which I am an unapologetic disciple. My entire life has been filled with generosity and abundance more than it has been touched by sadness or bitterness, thanks to the many known and unknown people who have been my ‘guardian angels’. If I had not written this memoir I might not have had this deep insight, and so I’m grateful to have had this gap year.
My hope in writing this memoir at this particular juncture in my own life, and in the life of our nation, is that it will invoke in you, the reader, the urge to want to have a much more open and deeper discussion about what our shared future should look like and what the common values of South Africa should be, and how best to move forward as a country towards defining a peaceful co-existence among all South Africans of all races by leveraging the economic transformation framework that exists in South Africa. If I am able in some small way to play a part in encouraging and guiding that discussion, my gap year will have been fruitful indeed.