End of Year Message: CEO, Faith Khanyile
What I know now..
If you had told me this time last year what lay ahead for 2020, I simply would not have believed you. But here we are. A year spent in a bewildering Covid-19 world where the ground shifted under our feet.
By the end of March 2020, our entire world of work had been turned on its head. With everyone working from home due to the coronavirus, we had to find a new way to function as a company.
After the initial adjustment to a digital world of Zoom meetings and working remotely, we made friends with this “new normal”. And after hard lockdown eased, we began to get into the flow of how our organisation worked in a pandemic, where our agility would be tested around every corner.
We got the work done, no matter how difficult it was – surrounded by children, spouses, tricky internet connections and a workload that didn’t quit. We learnt a lot of things this year: we learnt to communicate as a team in a way that we hadn’t before; we learnt to be open and honest about how we were feeling; and we all understood that now home life and work life were one and the same thing and we needed each other’s support and honesty. We learnt that we could only overcome our challenges through unity, respect and empathy; we learnt why values and purpose matter. We learnt to create boundaries and find ways to exist in a brave new world with demands we had never encountered before.
We learnt a lot of things this year: we learnt to communicate as a team in a way that we hadn’t before; we learnt to be open and honest about how we were feeling; and we all understood that now home life and work life were one and the same thing and we needed each other’s support and honesty.
And learn we did. We learnt to reach out to partners, colleagues and other organisations as we continued to run our business as best we could in spite of the difficult circumstances and a looming financial crisis where the local and global economy spluttered along with us in its wake. The pandemic-induced economic crisis also laid bare the deep gender inequalities in the workplace and society and the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on women. We learnt not to move on, to take action, to reach out and to get involved. I have read these phrases so many times over past months, so forgive me if you have heard it all before, but we have learnt to “be resilient” and even better than that, we learnt that as a company and as individuals, times have been hard but “we can do hard things”.
With all the challenges, we managed to continue with our business – rather unusual, and despite enormous pressure on our resources we achieved a few notable milestones:
- We published the Gender Pay Gap research in April/May and it was very well received. As an organisation, we continue to lobby for women to be equally remunerated and the survey has been both invaluable in providing much-needed data to support our cause and a stark reminder that we still have a very long way to go when it comes to gender parity in the workplace.
- We continued to support the PrimeStars programme. This year’s programme was very different from previous years as it focused on matriculants whose final year was severely impacted. We teamed up to help thousands of learners with the math and science revision work.
- We also continued our support of the Makola School in Soweto and assisted them with their Covid-19 safety and hygiene signage and provided much needed masks.
- We ran a number of workshops for our LOT (Leaders of Tomorrow) youth group. These included a workshop on how to present oneself in an interview; writing CVs and basic business skills; personal branding; and financial literacy.
- We continued to partner our investee companies during this difficult period.
We also learnt a lot about each other and our team. Covid-19 has taught us many lessons and we really are grateful. The acceptance of things we can and cannot change has also been very humbling and empowering at the same time. These are the gifts courtesy of 2020.
As we go into the festive season and the days ahead, let’s be mindful of those who have lost loved ones, lost their income and/or are battling with mental illness and depression. Times are extremely tough for a lot of people. If we can, let’s reach out and help – whether it’s a phone call, dropping off a meal, or taking the time to enjoy a cup of tea or coffee with someone who could use a bit of compassion and care.
And wherever we are during the holidays, please let’s be sensible – the virus doesn’t know it’s the festive season, so wear your mask, sanitise, keep your social distance and always be mindful of others who may be more vulnerable than you are when it comes to health issues.
I keep hearing everyone looking forward to 2020 “being over”, but I think we need to be realistic. 2021 won’t come with a magic wand that we can wave and every hardship experienced this year will be gone. We are still experiencing a pandemic. The next year, and in fact the next few years, are going to be tough and we need to take the lessons learnt from 2020 as a stepping stone to the future.
And, of course, there is hope. What I know now is that I am stronger than I ever thought I could be. What I know now is that the work we do at WDBIH is incredibly important and that as a unit we will strive to make the difference in the lives of women all over our beautiful and battered country. What I know now is that I need to respect the planet and the people in it and I need to give more than I take from the planet and the people in it. I also know that gratitude is the gateway to abundance in all things and I continue to be grateful for my family, my colleagues and the wider WDBIH community.
I wish you all love and strength over the festive season. May you find some time for rest and restoration and come back in the New Year to continue to be the change in a world that so desperately needs a helping hand.
CEO, Faith Khanyile