The first webinar in a new series for Women in MICE was held on Wednesday 06 May 2020. Hosted by Thami Nkadimeng and the Top Women in MICE Awards, and supported by the South Africa National Convention Bureau (SANCB), the series seeks to explore whether COVID-19 is an opportunity for female equality, and formulate a way forward to achieve this.

Five inspiring women who all hold powerful positions within the MICE industry joined the panel to explore this topic. All of them agreed we need to do more to empower women in our industry.

Amanda Kotze-Nhlapo, the Chief Convention Bureau Officer at SANCB, noted that we have made very little progress towards gender equality over recent years. She highlighted that the stereotype of a woman’s role and her responsibility to her family make it incredibly difficult to pursue high-level and demanding positions. (This idea is supported by Statistics SA, which reports 27.8% of women in South Africa rate homemaking the reason for their economic inactivity.) She added that, for some women the only way to get past this is to simply not start a family.

“[T]he stereotype of a woman’s role and her responsibility to her family make it incredibly difficult to pursue high-level and demanding positions.”

She also suggested that, as a starting point, we need to decide what we want female empowerment in tourism to look like. One way to do this is explore and develop the following five thematic areas into corresponding thematic goals:

  • employment
  • entrepreneurship
  • education and training
  • leadership, policy and decision-making
  • community and civil society

Corné Koch, the Head of Wesgro, gave some practical advice for women dealing with COVID-19.

“As women we are surviving. We can’t stop moving or we will get hit. We are in a survival phase,” she said of the crisis.

Her advice is that we need to keep talking, whether to our clients, suppliers or colleagues. Small business owners especially need to talk to each other, in order to uncover ways that they can help each other and find opportunities to collaborate.

“We need to change the mindset of women, so that they start to use the opportunities available to them.”

Nonnie Kubeka, Executive Director of Gauteng Convention & Events Bureau, spoke next on the importance of encouraging female entrepreneurs. She noted that women often initiate great projects and have innovative ideas, but they fail to commercialize them. This is seemingly out of a belief that as women it is their responsibility to do it for free.

Where women break past this psychological barrier and become entrepreneurs, credit and loans are typically harder to access. At the same time, women tend to use their own finances and delay seeking investment. “We need to change the mindset of women, so that they start to use the opportunities available to them,” she argued.

As well as changing mindsets, Kubeka encouraged all women, and women entrepreneurs, to support each other whenever we can.

Vanessa Perumal, the MD of JT Communications, echoed the sentiment that women need to have greater confidence in themselves as businesswomen. She revealed that she often has men requesting endorsements on LinkedIn, but not women. And when she endorses other women, they do not reciprocate this and endorse her in return.

“What is required the most now is compassion and kindness, and these are values that women know best.”

Sonto Ndlovu, the CEO of Limpopo Tourism Authority, was the final speaker. She argued that women have a fundamental role to play in economy, and that being able to participate economically should not be considered a favour, but a right.

(It’s worth noting that research by McKinsey demonstrates that gender diversity is correlated with both profitability and value creation in a company, showing that the potential for economic growth increases when women are allowed into the executive suite.)

She added, “What is required the most now is compassion and kindness, and these are values that women know best.”

Click here to listen to the webinar. (Please note that unfortunately the start of the webinar, which featured Amanda Kotze-Nhlapo’s comments, was lost due to technical issues.)

The next Women in MICE webinar will be held on 03 June 2020, which will elaborate on the ideas and questions that arose in this session. Sign up for our newsletters or follow us on Facebook to find out when it will take place.