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Expert Opinion

10 Strategies to help you get noticed at work

25 Sep 2017

Entrepreneur, speaker and author Donna Rachelson shares her top 10 strategies to help you stand out from the crowd at work from her book, “Play to Win – what women can learn from men in business”.

  1. Think like a business owner, not an employee: When you do this, you will manage your time better. Prioritise the tasks on your list that will benefit the business the most and grow your profits. Approach meetings in a different way – motivate for actions that will benefit the company and your bottom line.
  2. Don’t wait to be told to do things: Be confident enough to take the initiative. If you know that something is going to help your company, then go the extra mile.
  3. Make office politics work for you: Office politics can’t be avoided but can be used to your advantage. Work on building a network of supporters and help others with their projects and build up a bit of an IOU bank with the broadest possible base.
  4. Be a good leader, follower and team player: Within your sphere of influence, you can be a thought leader and an action leader, but always be open to new ideas from people below you in rank, and don’t fear their success.
  5. Be positive and enthusiastic: Let your sense of humour out when appropriate and remember that people generally want to be around happy, positive people. See the good in others, look for solutions (not problems). Always encourage others.
  6. Don’t assume people are psychic: There is no way that management can know everything that is going on. Tell them. Let them know about the good things you are accomplishing. Appropriate self-promotion is a vital career skill.
  7. Motivate others to take action: Think of yourself as an influencer and motivate others to do things that compliment your ideas to improve the company and make a difference for clients.
  8. Be a perpetual student: Seek out training and education, read business books and trade magazines and learn from your mentors and heroes (and enemies). Learn from your mistakes.
  9. Manage your career:  Don’t wait for your boss to set your targets or send you on training. Research training courses that would be beneficial and then ask your boss to support you. Make it happen.
  10.  Take responsibility:  In business, people tend to say: “The report was completed on time.” Change the language so that it points to you: “I completed the report on time.” Just changing that small focus of your language can help others to see what you have achieved.

For more insights from Donna Rachelson, or to buy one of her insightful books, visit: http://donnarachelson.com/

This is an edited version of content from her book, “Play to Win – what women can learn from men in business.”

Leadership Lessons

23 May 2017

Knowing that what I do at the office every day, no matter how mundane, will have far-reaching effects on the lives of women in South Africa’s rural areas has made all the difference to my career and I know that my colleagues at WDB Investment Holdings and WDB Trust feel the same way.

The WDB story is an incredible one and the organisation celebrated its 25th-anniversary last year. The WDB Trust was founded earlier in 1991 with the objective of making a contribution to nation-building and poverty alleviation in rural South Africa by providing access to microfinance for rural women entrepreneurs. However, WDBIH soon realised that being an investor in large blue-chip companies, whose boards and leadership were largely male and white, created an opportunity for it to advocate for women’s advancement into senior management and leadership positions in the companies in which it invested. This included insisting on companies’ board seats.

To say this was challenging is an understatement. In almost all cases, we were not taken seriously by potential investee companies when we insisted on board seats and when we asked pointed questions about their women advancement strategies. As a newly established organisation founded and led by women who were well-educated but with limited commercial experience and no track record in investment management or business leadership, we had to learn by doing. Despite these challenges, we persisted, as we were driven not by personal positions or gain but by a vision to play a role in the transformation of our country. With the backing by other women and a few forward-thinking men, WDB continues to push for the increased participation of women in its investee companies.

Over the past 20 years, we have invested in more than 20 entities, ranging from blue-chip listed companies to privately-owned small and medium-sized companies. We have board seats in most of these companies. On average, these companies have over 25% female representation on their boards. What are the factors that have contributed to our success?

1. A purpose and values-driven organization—The founding principle of WDB was to serve women and make a difference in their lives. Purpose is one of the key success factors in business. One of our key values is pioneering and innovation, therefore, when we make an investment decision, we don’t just look at the figures, we also look at how we can enhance the partnership and assist our partners to do business differently.

2. Leadership—Good leadership is required in order for a purpose to be achieved. Good leaders guard the organisation’s mission and values, ensuring it doesn’t deviate from its core values. WDB’s leadership exemplifies these qualities, starting with its founder, Mrs Zanele Mbeki, who is motivated by the upliftment and growth of others.

3. Developing and nurturing partnerships and relationships—Without strong and loyal partners, it’s difficult to make one’s business a success. In the case of WDBIH, these relationships include our investment partners, funders, co-investors and other women’s organisations. Thus, it is critical to invest in relationships, never taking them for granted.

4. Hard work and perseverance—Ultimately, the grand purpose and vision must be executed by the people, who are every organisation’s greatest asset. A motivated and engaged workforce is critical to the successful implementation of the strategy.

Why should South African business leaders care about women advancement in their companies? The issue of increasing women’s participation in the economy is not unique to South Africa. Research shows that, over the past 20 years, there has been a steady increase in women’s representation in senior and leadership positions globally. However, women’s representation is still far below where it should be in relation to the world’s population. In its Women Matter Africa report, released in August 2016, McKinsey & Company surveyed 55 leading companies in Africa and interviewed 35 African women leaders. It found that, while Africa has achieved significant progress in women representation in leadership positions over the past 20 years, it is still far from achieving gender equality in the boardrooms. On average, women held 27% of senior leadership positions in African businesses. However, when one digs deeper, one finds that women still do not hold “influential positions”.

According to the research, in the private sector, more than half of senior women occupy staff roles rather than the roles from which promotions to CEO typically occur. In South Africa, at senior levels of JSE-listed companies, the proportion is around 27% female; at board level, it is about 24% female and, according to a PWC survey of JSE-listed companies, fewer than 4% of CEO positions are held by women. Why should we care about the equal participation of women in our economy? According to the recently published UNDP Africa Human Development Report 2016, released in August 2016, it is estimated that the total annual economic losses due to gender inequality in the Sub-Saharan African labour market have averaged US$95 billion a year since 2010. Furthermore, the report makes it clear that countries that invest more in gender equality and women’s empowerment are outperforming their peers in terms of human development. Among the biggest challenges we face are lacklustre growth and a critical skills shortage, yet more than 50% of the population is not given an opportunity to meaningfully participate in the economy.

It is time that the issue of gender inclusivity is elevated to the highest level, rather than being treated merely as a compliance matter. The barriers to success for women who have chosen to advance their careers are common across the globe. They include the lack of flexibility afforded to women as their personal lives change (such as when they start a family), rigid corporate cultures that are not open to change, leading to women feeling isolated at times and cases of persisting sexism, which affect women’s participation. Research shows that companies with a greater share of women on boards and executive committees tend to perform far better in the long term, as diverse leadership teams bring different perspectives and balance on matters such as risk management, marketing and client engagement and innovation.

Possible solutions I believe that more drastic steps must be taken to improve these numbers so that, 20 years from now, we can look back and point to a significant increase in women’s economic participation. This requires consensus and then deliberate implementation by decision-makers in government and the private sector. The senior female representation targets as part of employment equity must be doubled, as the current targets will not make a dent in changing the position of women in our economy. Women’s development should be on executive committees’ and boards’ agendas and should be monitored and measured. As a nation, we should be making the issue of women’s under-representation in our economy one of our top priorities if we are to seriously leverage talent and skills in growing this economy. With the right leadership focus and drive, South Africa can become a leader in women’s empowerment in Africa and will reap the benefits in the long term.  


Faith N. Khanyile CEO and Founding member of WDB Investment Holdings (WDBIH)



Economic Truth and Reconciliation Commission

21 Jul 2016

The deliberations that took place on the  first day of the WDB Dialogue, have  propmpted  me to write this piece.Whilst  the Truth and Reconciliation Commission  was  in itself a good idea for the country politically- its main drawback  was  that it was  a political  process. Thus it could not address issues that were economic in nature , without such a  process to produce those results.That is why  at the end  of it , the same  State  which initiated  it, and was  not responsible  for all  the atrocities ended  up carrying  the can of redress to the  victims of those atrocities.

What was  missing and has been  missing for all these twenty two years  has been an inquiry into  the manner in which  wealth accumulation  by a few had taken place, at the expense  of the majority. The levels  of inequality  have become so  gross and grotesque that the explanation  that  those at the top of the economic  ladder  did so  through  sheer grit and hardwork is just  not sufficient.

There is more  to it  than this. The  notion  that those at the top  did so through their own  bootstraps just does not cut it.

In its  latest  report, July, 2016, the African Business , has an End Note, right at the back, highlighting   rising levels of inequality  globally, as well as in countries   like Africa. It quotes Kofi Anan, as Chair of the  Africa Progress Panel , saying:

“ Disparities  in basic life chances  -for  health,education and participation in society – are  preventing  millions of Africans   from realizing  their  potential, holding back social and economic progress in the process.”






If this is true  of  the general population, it is  even  more so when it  comes to women in Africa, suffering   tripple oppression of  race, class and  gender.

Anan further  warned of the   long term risks  of rising  inequality and  the  marginalization  of entire sectors of societies – pre-eminently women. 

The report  goes on  to say that  :

“ it  would be naïve  to  think that  the  dynamic of inequality  will simply  work themselves  out. It will  require  determined  leadership from  political,  business and  society  leaders   across the continent to ensure  Anan,s bleak observation   does not  hold  for  long.”

The report  observes  :

“ While there is  nothing  inherently wrong  with wealth, such  disparity should  unnerve  ordinary citizens, policymakers and business  alike. Inequality is  increasing in virtually every country globally today and  there is  little indication  this will  change any time  soon. History is replete  with examples  of what  happens  when the   gap between the haves  and have nots  becomes unsustainable , none  of them appealing.”

This lies at the heart  of a call for an Economic Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which  would   look into  those situations where  trickery, chicanery  and fraud  were  used  in the accumulation of wealth, with or without State  collusion, and  appropriate redress  be fashioned for those  closest  to such victimization.






Those  at the top of  the economic  ladder  must be  called   upon to account as  to  how  they got  there and  make amends  voluntarily so, otherwise  our courts   must  adjudicate  disputes, as it is their function, to administer justice, without fear or favour.

The aim of it all  is  not vindictiveness, but  to begin to chart  a new way  of doing business, unashamedly ethical, and  to embed values like , live and  let live, lift as  you rise , love people first, and steward  the land and other economic resources. These value are immanent and  form an integral  part of Ubuntu. Who can better teach these values  than women?

An Afrikaner farmer in the  Western Cape ,Kosie Van Zyl , made  the  point I found  profound that they , white  people  made the  mistake  of  not loving the  people  of the land  first, and   then steward the land. Instead they fell in love with the land, and despised the  people on the land. He has  turned  people who ex-farm workers and farm dwellers , who were  destitute and without  hope in life, into  farm owners  of three  farms , just outside Caledon, in Napier. Women are at the centre of the  project, also running a Guest House, Agri-Dwala : www.agri-dwala.co.za.     

It  will be appreciated that  historically from the earliest   contact between  indigenous  people  and those  coming from  foreign  lands , the world over, at the  heart  of  land  dispossessions  and other  economic  resources  and means of livelihood, was an economic motive , over and above  the  political  motive.Until  the economic  dimension  is explored and  put right in time, there is a  social time bomb that is ticking away.



Those sitting pretty at the top of the  economic ladder will say there is no point in breaking up the cake and sharing  it among many, it will have the effect of  shrinkage, and so  will be the effect on the economy. Nothing could be further  from the truth, there is  a law that says  what is shared increases. Those who are excluded presently and have been for  decades, with no means  to participate, will now  gain some means  to participate in the economy and thus grow it.

Growth of the  economy as it is  presently structured  only benefits the  few at the  top.  As a matter of fact growth and  inclusivity are not mutually  exclusive.The Africa Progress  Panel observed :

“ Despite  more than a decade of sustained   growth, there is  growing concern over the lack of inclusiveness of this growth.”

When  government itself is not being exemplary, when boards  like the Government Employees Pensions  Fund ( GEPF)consists solely of men, where is inclusiveness in this. How will the women be in a position to influence  how  trillions of  pension funds are  invested?

If women were  also around  the table where decisions are made, the agenda would change. For example , where government only invests R100 million towards a programme aimed  empowering women  to access and own land, such as One Woman, One hectare of land,  it would invest  R1billion in a  Revolving Loan Fund, like  One Acre Fund   and have a target  of funding  1million  women farmers  by 2030. One farmer,  on average  can support  five  people  in a  household, this  by extrapolation means that  five million people  would be  lifted  out of  poverty.

It  is  this dreaming big that will radically change  the high  levels of inequality, and move the country  towards  making  poverty history.




Anything  less is  like  playing while Rome is burning. The youth is very angry about the  lack of radical change in their lives. They say clearly and unequivocally,  that  they are no longer going to put up with having to buy  milk from their own cow, now they want both the cow and the  milk, because they both belong to them.

 It is not as  if we do not have the  means, but we  lack is a  political will to make it happen. We also lack a sense of urgency, about has to happen. Before we are  overrun by events,   as a country ,  we need to move swiftly and introduce measures that will convince them that we  mean business. The  moment is  now  !

“ There is  tide in the affairs of men, which taken at the flood, leads  to fortune. Omitted all the voyage  of their life is bound  in shallows and miseries. On such a full sea we are now afloat” W. Shakespeare.

As a country we need to move  and move swiftly and decicively.

WDB and SAWID  possibly need  to have  an Advocacy and Lobbying Portfolio where  these  issues  and others  are to be  kept on the Nation,s  radar screen, all the time, until they are  attended to.

This is  just  one  of them.WDB  and SAWID   have  the  moral authority, and have earned   their stripes  as a  voice  for women to raise  this issue and  others that will contribute to women, s total emancipation,  economically, culturally and  otherwise.


By : Dr Wallace  Amos Mgoqi.

12 JULY ,2016.



Leading South African investment firm – owned and run by women for women – reveals how they are doing it for themselves

30 Dec 2015

Mathapelo Mthembu, [25], dreamed of becoming a famous film director. That was until she sat down with her accounting teacher at Mokgome Senior Secondary School in Soweto who gave her insight into the accounting profession and the wonderful world of numbers.

Today this junior accountant is well on her way to fulfilling her ambition of becoming a fully-fledged Professional Accountant , thanks to investment giant WDB Investment Holdings (WDBIH). 

Mthembu came straight from the University of Johannesburg to become the first candidate on the company's fledgling learnership programme that aims to produce young, female Professional Accountants. 

The WDBIH was formed in 1996 to enhance and promote the upliftment of rural women (through the WDB Trust founded by, among others, former First Lady Zanele Mbeki) and entrepreneurs. 

Today it has grown into the country's leading women-owned and led focused investment firms, with interests in key sectors of the economy including financial services (banks and insurance), health, industrial services, property, retail as well as the oil and media sectors, with a net asset value of just under R3-billion as at their year end March 2015 
Over the years these long-term investments have raised more than R165-million for the WDB Trust, with over 100 000 rural women entrepreneurs also benefitting.

Two years ago, as part of a holistic growth and transformation strategy, WDBIH also initiated an enterprise fund which offers loans of between R50 000 and R500 000 to female entrepreneurs, particularly those involved in agriculture, agro processing, green industries and specialised services.

As part of this growth strategy, says finance manager Rose Mamabolo, WDBIH also seeks to aggressively "grow its own timber" through initiatives such as the learnership programme.

She says: "This is the first year of the programme, with WDBIH seeing skills development as crucial to its core business. At the moment it encompasses a training contract with the South African Institute of Professional Accountants (SAIPA). To participate, candidates must have a National Diploma in Accounting or equivalent."

Mamabolo says the programme is structured according to the curriculum requirements of SAIPA, which include financial accounting, taxation, internal controls, management accounting and business management. 

"Even though we have just started with Mathapelo as our first candidate, we have already identified a junior bookkeeper within the company whom we are grooming to also participate in the programme."

Mamabolo also serves as Mthembu's mentor, something the latter describes as "invaluable", saying: "She has such a wealth of knowledge to teach me about the profession and shares her knowledge and personal experiences about her career path."

On WDBIH, Mthembu says: "Being here does not feel like working at all. I love the fact that I am constantly learning, because with accounting there is always something new. I say that my preoccupation is now an occupation."

She says she is especially proud to be working for a company with the ethos and principles of WDBIH. "It is an impact investor – that is, an investment company with a conscience which uses its profits towards the economic upliftment of rural communities. It is also women-owned and run and dedicated to the upliftment of those previously excluded from participating in the economy."

And, says WDBIH CEO Faith Khanyile, this is what underpins the company's strategic plan. "WDBIH seeks to add value to its investments strategically, through board participation, assisting investee companies in their business growth plans and helping drive women empowerment and transformation strategies."

Khanyile says the successful portfolio of equity investments WDBIH has in both established and growing businesses is testimony to its success.

The company today has interests in local and multinational companies, including Bidvest, Discovery, FirstRand, Assupol, Ascendis Health, Safari Investments, International Housing Solutions, Anglo Inyosi Coal, Maemo Motors, and even in local radio stations Algoa FM and Smile 90.4FM. In April the company acquired shares in Woolworths in a R500-million deal. 

This spirit of "women investing in women" - which is WDBIH's motto - is not lost on Mthembu. "I was raised by my mom who dared me to dream. I am who I am today because of her. When people compliment me, I tell them that the praise actually belongs to her. She defied the odds, shaped and empowered me and transformed me into a strong woman.

Let women give SA’s financial recovery a rock-solid foundation – Infographic

21 Oct 2015

Faith Khanyile, WDB Investment Holding CEO

The transformation message from this year’s women’s month can guide us to recovery from the current global financial turmoil, says Faith Khanyile, CEO and co-founder of WDB Investment Holdings.

The growing turmoil in international financial markets is a stark reminder that despite progress in transformation over the past two decades, women remain particularly vulnerable economically.

Within corporates, women tend to take up issues of inclusivity and diversity more passionately than men.

Yet the advances in gender parity that we saw in the first decade of our democracy have not been extended and women are not moving up the ranks fast enough to make a difference to our society.

In the previous global financial crisis, corporates retreated into survival mode. They guarded their narrow concept of the financial bottom line, neglecting to develop their human resources.

Transformation programmes were parked and participation of women at senior corporate levels, for example, either stagnated or moved backwards.

According to the Grant Thornton International Business Report 2014, the percentage of senior management positions in South Africa occupied by women has remained fairly static for the past seven years at between 26% and 28%.
Currently, there is a threat that the country could enter a recession. And that is exactly why we need to harness all the talents and resources we have available.

If women are allowed to become victims of financial uncertainty once again, their own development and the futures of their children could be significantly set back if not derailed. It is vital for the country’s economy and for its social development goals in fields such as education and health that we do not again side-line women because women can be the rock-solid foundation for great achievements.

Many still do not have the capacity to control their environment and are held back from taking their rightful place in the development of a democratic and non-sexist South Africa. South Africa has an overall gender gap of 25 % (as measured by economic participation and opportunity, education, health and political empowerment). Additionally, the private sector pay gap in South Africa is 35.5% according to the World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap report of October 2013.

I was fortunate to be brought up in rural Zululand by parents who treated their girl and boy children equally, offering both great opportunities. My parents progressed from selling vegetables to running a general store in KwaBiyela township outside Empangeni, stocking everything from meat to soft goods.

They gave us whatever opportunities they could manage and my brother became a chemist, my sister an accountant. Because I had enjoyed seeing business in action from an early age, I went on to study economics at university.
My mother was a strong woman and very entrepreneurial. She remains to me a model of how women can develop. She and my father did not shape their daughters’ choices towards gender-specific careers such as nursing. Giving girl children confidence to develop their talents starts in the family.

Without the inspiration and the opportunities my parents gave me, I would not have been able to launch my career in private equity or had the assertiveness nearly two decades ago to be one of the co-founders of WDB Investment Holdings, which has built up its net asset value from a zero base to just under R3 billion over that period. I would not have been equipped to spend more than a decade in corporate investment banking and benefit from the generous support of mentors and sponsors who guided my development within that environment.

As a vital complement to formal transformation programmes, informal networks are important to assist promising and ambitious women, though they have tended to use these networks less than men do. Beyond technical competence, they need to develop self-awareness and resilience, to become proactive and assertive.

At WDBIH we work to achieve this in three ways. We prefer meaningful and strategic participation at board level in our investments. This includes encouraging transformation agendas.

We include shopping malls in townships and rural towns and affordable housing funds among our chosen investments. We also contribute to South Africa’s social and economic transformation imperatives through our enterprise development fund, which provides loan funding and business support to women’s businesses.

The loans range from ZAR50 000 to ZAR300 000. To date more than ZAR165 million in investment dividends has been channelled to the WDB Trust, which focuses on supporting women entrepreneurship and community development particularly in rural areas. The fact that women are so heavily concentrated in the SMME sector shows how difficult it is for them to scale up their businesses and break into the larger corporate value chain as suppliers.

Finally, within WDBIH we recently introduced a learnership programme providing unemployed women graduates with finance and accounting qualifications, relevant skills and training. At all levels we are living our mission to increase the participation of women in the South African economy, leading to a fairer and more equitable society.

Women’s Month has been an opportunity to celebrate the contribution of women to developing our democracy and refocus on ways to transform their opportunities to use their talents to the best advantage of themselves, their families and our society as a whole. Let us take that message forward in the months ahead, undaunted by the financial climate and realising that to limit our country’s pool of talent by undermining transformation efforts is to place barriers to the growth of the nation we love.

Faith Khanyile, WDB Investment Holding Chief Executive Officer


To view the infographic – click here






Finding the empowerment edge

16 Sep 2015
Faith khanyile awards x

Many corporates and financial institutions talk the empowerment talk. But one investment company, WDB Investment Holdings (WDBIH), really walks the talk.Faith-Khanyile-awards

From CEO Faith Khanyile, through the founder of WDB Trust, Mrs Zanele Mbeki, to the company’s investment executives, all are women who know how empowerment can energise businesses, careers and lives.

“We live out our vision – women investing in women,” says Mrs Khanyile, a founder member of WDBIH who has been associated with the company for more than 20 years. “We ensure that we invest in our colleagues as carefully as we do in well-chosen companies.”

“We nominated Daphne Mashile-Nkosi, our non-executive chairperson – who also serves on the boards of several mining companies, among others – to study development economics in Nagoya, Japan. This was part of WDB’s vision of increasing women’s capacity to control their environment and to take their rightful place in the development of a democratic and non-sexist South Africa.”

WDBIH was founded in 1996. By 31 December 2014, the company had a net asset value (NAV) of just over R2.7 billion, following a compound annual growth rate of 28% cent over the past three years. “We achieved this by leveraging our extensive experience and relationships in raising significant amounts of capital to finance our investments,” says Mrs Khanyile. “The NAV performance has also enabled us to distribute dividends to the WDB Trust to the extent of R165 million so far.”

WDBIH targets investments in a range of sectors, from property and consumer goods and services to education and financial services.  Recent new investments include a limited partner interest in an affordable housing fund, International Housing Solutions; a direct equity investment in Ascendis Health, complementing its anchor health investment in Discovery Limited; and a direct equity stake in JSE-listed IT services provider Adapt IT.  In January this year WDBIH increased its shareholding in the FirstRand Group, one of its earliest investments.

“We are active investing partners and seek board representation in all our key investments,” says Mrs Khanyile. “We believe this allows us to have meaningful strategic influence while we add value to our investments, as well as to bring the women’s perspective to business.

“In turn, the WDB Trust, which turns 25 in 2016, helps us fulfil our mission – the economic upliftment of women in South Africa, particularly focusing on rural women. The rural household is our key target that allows us to access both women and children, as well as the wider community.”

In 2012, WDBIH founded the WDBIH Enterprise Development (ED) Fund to address the gap in funding and business support for SMMEs – with a specific focus on women entrepreneurs. “We are aiming to increase access to unsecured debt financing and business development services by supporting women entrepreneurs to build financial security,” explains Mrs Khanyile. “This includes training and facilitating access to markets, working with a number of strategic partners in target sectors.

“To help grow this fund, our strategy is to leverage corporate CSI and ED spending. In the medium term, we aim to increase the fund size to R50 million.”

Generating steady cash-flow is vital to allow WDB Trust and WDB ED to carry out their mission, points out Mrs Khanyile. “We also generally arrange to receive trickle dividends or performance management fees to sustain our cash-flow.”

She further notes that “Our all-women management team has a combined experience of more than 40 years in banking and finance, investment management and enterprise development.”