High-Level Networking 101: How to Spark a Conversation that can Lead to Long Term Impact

Everyone knows that high-level networking is a critical part of building a successful business, project, or brand.

Decision-makers at all levels want to feel confident in the person they are hiring or bringing on board for their projects, and in many cases, all it takes is one chance meeting to seal the deal.

It is also common knowledge that high-level networking is awkward. That uncomfortable feeling of scanning a room and deciding who to walk up to, what to say, and how to present yourself.

High-Level Networking is a true art form, that requires both practice, and trial and error in order to find your own secret sauce.

I attend lots of events, so I am always on the giving and receiving end of that first greeting.

Here are some high-level networking tips that can help you break the ice, keep a good conversation flowing, and ensure a rapid follow up -@lizgrossman87 Click To Tweet

Dress your best, be unique and spark confidence:

Simply put, when you look good, you feel good, and when you feel good, your confidence shines through.

Need I say more? I also recommend wearing something unique that grabs the attention of others.

In my case, I typically wear one of my custom made African pieces because it’s both flattering, and also always acts as a conversation starter allowing me to share a bit about myself right off the bat.

You may have an article of clothing or accessory that always gets complimented, wear that and it will almost always serve as an icebreaker.

Do your homework

Make sure you find out as much about the event as you can before going. Who is organizing it, who is attending and what opportunities are you looking for?

Prepare different pitches you can potentially deliver to attendees, bring the appropriate materials (brochures, pens, business cards, etc), and focus on your goals.

Knowing what you want to say and showing up prepared will increase your confidence, showcase your level of seriousness and leave little room for frivolity.

Be natural, not transactional and pushy

People like to joke, smile, converse and mingle without feeling pressure, and the most impactful connections start like that. 

You want people to be attracted to your personality, and not feel hounded by business right from the get-go. The key is to place an emphasis on relationship building.

Earlier this year at a crowded event, I ended up sitting next to a lovely woman, sharing a few laughs over coffee while the event carried on.

Later, I learned that she is a very high ranking official at the UN, but our relationship had already been solidified in a friendly, convivial tone. When you get to the event, go get yourself a drink or a snack, relax.

Don’t focalize on the VIPs. 

Please, you do not want to be the first one to bumrush the speakers after they immediately after they finish their presentation- they will not remember you.

I have watched attendees wait fifteen-thirty minutes for their chance to simply say hello or offer their praises to my clients, wasting an opportunity to make more meaningful connections in the room. 

Networking Tip: Meet the people sitting next to you, because those are usually the ones who will be on the stage at the next event – @lizgrossman87 Click To Tweet

If you would like to introduce yourself to one of the heavy hitters, patiently wait your turn. Know what you want to say, find a reason to follow up, and find the best method to get in touch.

Have an appropriate business card etiquette.

Effective networking is not about collecting or distributing a million cards, so the first thing you do should never be to hand out or ask for a business card.

After you have established a connection and potential for collaboration, that is a good time to hand them your card. If they do not have one, but you wish to follow up, ask them for their email address or phone number on the spot.

If that does not happen, connect immediately following the event on social media with a follow-up message.

Follow up within 24 hours

Most people forget that networking does not stop at the event, it requires diligent and thoughtful follow up.  Jot down notes during the event about the people you have met, and write them the next day to recap your conversation and propose a next action point.

This could be as simple as staying in touch, suggesting a meeting, or a direct ask about something which was discussed.

Since people are busy and attend many functions, it needs to be done within 24 hours to ensure they remember you and your conversation. 

Finally…

Always remember to stay calm and cool. Chances are slim that you will land your dream job or sign a big investment deal at a high-level networking event, but they are great places to plant the seeds that can grow into your next opportunity. 

Always remember your value, make friends, and have some fun. It may turn out that people start lining up to hand you their business cards!


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7 ways to make your space more liveable without breaking the bank – by Banke Ajagunna

Banke Ajagunna is the Founder of Decor Nigeria; an interior design company that specializes in designing functional and aesthetically appealing spaces for corporate and individual clients.

When you hear young professional, the first thing that comes to mind is budget. We’ve all been there and some of you are still there.

That being said, with the minimum wage in our Motherland, design for a young professional may seem far-reaching and unattainable.

In this article, Banke shares a few ways to make your space more liveable without breaking the bank.


Wall profiles

Wall profiles (also known as wainscoting) are usually seen as expensive because you only get to see them at high-end stores or homes but they are really not as pricey as you’d think.

They can be very affordable when made locally. Wall profiles make for a fantastic alternative wall finish than good ol’ wallpapers.

Additionally, if you are an old soul and intrigued about design in the 18th century – signifying a period of opulence and extravagance- wall profiles could give you that beautiful renaissance feels that you’ve always dreamed about.

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Space

Make the most out of every space, they come freely but like free things, you might not appreciate it till it’s gone.

You may be tempted to stuff a lot of unnecessary decorative pieces in your home but don’t fall for it; ISSA TRAP!

Declutter as much as possible to give your room the much-needed airiness. Also, the spaces that bridge the gap between inside and outside can become the greatest allies in designing.

Restyling your balcony, back deck with natural furniture, plants if you like, will create an added extension to your home.

Wall shelves

You can easily put this together with a piece of wood and wall brackets for support. This design tip is very flexible and adaptable as it gives you the chance to choose your preferred style and also paint it to any color that suits your taste, anytime.

Wall shelves can be placed in the living area or the bedroom. Books, accent pieces can be kept on this shelf, making it look full but beautifully arranged.

Mirror

Mirrors have earned status as an effective interior design tool used to fulfill practical purposes and a multitude of creative motives.

Whether you want to add a polished touch to your interiors, make a statement with wall art or amplify light and space, a thoughtfully chosen, a well-positioned mirror is an answer.

A mirror in your space simply lets the light in, placing it next to a window or opposite a window increases the amount of light cast inside a room, thereby making the space if small, appear larger. It can be used in a shallow room, hallway, bedroom, etc.

Pro Tip: Place your mirror strategically so it reflects the best part of your room.

Repurpose Furniture

Grandma’s bookshelves and tables are great items to repurpose. A good coat of paint will completely change the look of a piece and allow you to fit it into any space.

A pair of old end tables can be painted and given a contrasting top to make an entertaining coffee table or dining room table.

Using pieces that have been used before and reimagine them in a modern way, and depending on the design style, it can also be refurbished to look antique. Sofas and armchairs can also be reupholstered in a new fabric to give a more modern look.

Infuse Some Greenery

A lot of interior styles now includes bringing the outside, inside. It has become a full-on movement in interior designing and has tons of benefits, from mood-boosting to cleaner air.

Bringing natural plants it isn’t the only way to decorate with plants, you can still do so with a plant print wallpaper. Luckily this method is quite in vogue and gives you all the same peaceful and happy feelings as live plants.

Artificial plants are a plausible alternative to live plants because they require little or no maintenance and can also give your home a greenhouse vibe.

Art Prints

Art prints are a cost-effective way to bring color and texture into your space while also making you look like a connoisseur of fine things.

Here, you need to be a bit selective because some art pieces shouldn’t be seen on your wall; they are just too busy and distasteful.

Think of art as the stylistic icing on the cake that is your home and is sure to select what you like. Always consider the ideal scale and proportions when installing your artwork.

For instance, small art prints can be placed in clusters or you can centralize a single large piece of art at eye level thereby making it the focal point of your room.

White Beddings Are A Must

Hard to maintain but it’s a trick that keeps on giving. You are probably wondering how a couple of plain white sheets will make a difference in your home.

White is the lightest color, it is very achromatic and is associated with light, goodness, purity, innocence, etc. They may seem basic and boring but a most noteworthy benefit is that using white bedspreads helps soften and counter the other colors in a room; bringing it all together.

If you are not sold yet, you can add colored throws and cushions to make it look cozier.

On the plus side, it looks quite hotel-like and inviting.

Final Notes: If you follow these tips, you might be tempted to call in sick at work just so you laze around in bed but that might not be a good idea.

However, you can rest assured that you will always return to a warm and cozy home after a long day at work. Nothing beats this feeling!

For more interior design tips and tricks, visit www.decor.ng. Photo credits: Pinterest

This article was written by Banke Ajagunna.

Banke Ajagunna

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Meet the four black women making a name for themselves in the wine industry through ‘Wine-ish’

“We’ve spent the last three years coming together every Wednesday to connect over our future plans and our shared love for beautiful experiences – always in the presence of wine. From this, Wine-ish was born.”

Wine-ish is a dynamic group of 4 black women occupying the world of wine, one glass at a time.

Palesa Mapheelle, Obakeng Monamodi, Buhlebezwe Ndaba and Hlumelo Williams came together as friends on a casual Wednesday, also known as ‘Winesday’, to share their goals, dreams and everyday experiences.

156 Winesday’s later, they decided to form Wine-ish; a platform that has become a hub for all things wine and business, soon to disrupt the industry.

Wine-ish takes you on a visual journey of South Africa’s rich world of wine and related experiences through the lens of young, vibrant women of color.

The name choice is quite unique and has an interesting meaning behind it. Not only does the team focus on the technical understanding of viniculture and “Wine”, but the “Ish” in the name is also just as important to them; representing the side of them that is simply 4 young women navigating life together with all of its ups and downs.

Wine-ish is deeply rooted in and propelled by the connection the four of them share as friends, before anything else.

To us, our ‘Ish’ is just as important as our ‘Wine’. We’re not only about Merlot vs. Sauvignon Blanc, notes & flavours – we’re also about sisterhood, creating a hub for people to connect and relate to our experience – @wine__ish. Click To Tweet

As a business, Wine-ish aims to debunk wine and the drinking of it, all while making it more accessible to an emerging market who want to learn and experience more about it.

They don’t want to be seen as experts, but as people who are constantly learning and challenging the norms of the industry.

The zestful, youthful and vibrant energy of the team has always been what differentiates them from the firm and rigid industry they’re trying to create a space in, and it has been nothing but refreshing.

Infiltrating the industry has had its challenges but seeing the growth of people of color creating their own brands and wineries has left the team hopeful in making sure they will transform and create a positive disruption for themselves and in partnership with like-minded, forward-thinking collaborators.

“We remain true to a core mission of ours which is to expose ourselves and people like us to the world of wine” 

So, watch this space, because Wine-ish is going to be coming in strong with a lot more to show you.

For more on Wine-ish, their incredible brand, and upcoming projects; follow them on Instagram and Twitter.

The Queen of Representation – From Botswana to the world

“The A-Girls are exceptional, black vinyl dolls that appreciate the African girl of today, with all her versatility and diversity”.

Dolls are part of a girl’s introduction to what is considered ‘beautiful’. According to Bakani, creating the brand was essential in order to excavate and resuscitate what African beauty is. 

Until August 2016, Bakani July Johnson was a Lecturer at the University of Botswana (UB) in the Social Work Department. She holds a Masters Degree in Clinical Social Work and has worked intensively in the psychosocial field since 2004, gaining experience with Botswana Baylor Children’s Clinic as a social welfare case manager.

Prior to that, she worked with the Government of Botswana as a Social Welfare officer. After years of ideating, planning and testing, Bakani left the UB and started her doll-making business.

Bakani is a social entrepreneur and is constantly looking for ways to enhance the lives of others.

She is also a founding trustee of Musani Family Care Foundation, an organization that focusses on the restoration of Botswana’s family unit, and offers accommodation to families in transition, mostly caregivers of hospitalized patients who come from far off villages.

Musani Family Care Foundation seeks to bridge the gap by providing temporary housing and support for these families who need it most, at no cost. 

Connect with Bakani and her business on social media.


Why it is important for me to make the dolls…

I have always loved children. I am forever looking for ways to enhance their wellbeing and this led to the realization that there were no black dolls to use during clinical sessions with my little patients.

As a social worker, dolls are some of the symbolic tools used for communication during sessions. However, more often than not, the dolls that were donated looked nothing like the children I worked with.

This became a query, to manufactures and it was not a pretty feeling as it was seen from the point of exclusion. 

I realized that I could continue with the feeling of being ‘left out’ as a black African girl, or I could do something about it.  The research allowed me to see that I, and others like me, were never a concern for doll-makers; they had their own market and concerns.

Whatever I could find was by sheer luck.  I refused to use divisive story-telling or to accept that it was ‘someone else’s fault’ that as Batswana – and Africans – we don’t have black dolls.

The more I searched, the more I was challenged to create the doll I was looking for. I worked from thought to product, beginning in 2007.

The effect representation has on young Batswana /African girls…

We have for the longest time been portrayed as ugly, and not a representation of beauty.

If you research dolls throughout history, you will not like what you see. We have been ‘caricatured’ through the years and our features ridiculed. Our natural hair is still a full-on debate today.

With the dolls, I am simply excavating and resuscitating a black girl’s beauty.

The idea of the @AGirls15 dolls was to trigger an emotional response and to ensure that we put African girls faces on beauty, with a clear understanding that it is our responsibility to raise a new, confident African girl. – Bakani… Click To Tweet

The idea of the dolls was to trigger an emotional response and to ensure that we put African girls faces on beauty, with a clear understanding that it is our responsibility to raise a new, confident African girl. 

The development of The African Girls Dolls is a winning communication tool targeting children.

These are one-of-a-kind vinyl dolls that appreciate the diversity of African girls and were created with the realization of a lack of representation both commercially and in messaging for African children.

Most props and toys used are of girls and boys are not of African descent. Through the African girls’ collection, I am constantly helping organizations to create a unique language of truths, trust, and symbols as part of visual storytelling and visual messaging.

I understand that symbolically, images help us to understand abstract concepts that cannot always be translated into words and dolls have throughout history been symbols to communicate, appreciate and represent.

Dolls are part of a girl’s introduction to what is considered ‘beautiful’, and speaking to that aspect we want to be able to say ‘she is so pretty, just like a doll’ – and actually talk about a doll that looks like her. 

Children are visual beings. They connect to things visually and will remember things seen more than things said. They connect with objects or pictures from memory.

Africa and Botswana are about symbolism, or what things represent and communicate.

By giving girls @AGirls15 dolls that look like them, we are communicating a million things without words. Silent messaging works well with children – Bakani July Johnson Click To Tweet

If you listen in on doll play, your child communicates with what she sees. If her dolly is wearing beads she will have a conversation about that. The idea was to have dolls that are relevant to the children, thus when one looks at the dolls, they will realize that some have tutu skirts and modern symbols which represents a ‘modern girl’ whereas others are dressed in traditional Tswana regalia.

Great dolls bring the thought of history, self, and admiration. Children from different ethnicities benefit from playing with dolls that are a different skin tone, make and versatility.

Though dolls are not photocopies of the individual, we believe that to a small child the most important thing is that her little dolly is beautiful just like her, validating who she is and how she relates to herself.

The role I see my dolls playing in a Motswana girl’s life

This product, created by an African woman for African children is girl-centered for now and is self-esteem/self-efficacy based.

More than play, the dolls are seen as communication tools that instill gender and ethnic pride as a foundation for social skills. What you see and is preached becomes a norm. If everyone talks about ‘light-skinned’ being better, children will want that.

I want parents to hand the dolls to the children without influencing the children’s taste about them. 

I have involved a few people in the crafting of the dolls from those that design the clothes to those that do the hair and packaging.

I am very committed from an economic point of view to create an ecosystem that will hire many people because the project has a lot of potential for growth.

I want a situation where the dolls will have ambassadors so that the young ones can appreciate the mortal presentations of the dolls, just the way they experience the princesses that they see at places like Disneyland.

I will build the momentum and I am open to ideas to help develop the brand even further. I am sending out a call to all African and Botswana girls to join the brand as re-sellers and distributors for their countries.

How I manufacture my dolls…

I have involved a few people in the crafting of the dolls, from those who design the clothes to those who do the hair and packaging.

Unfortunately, in Africa we don’t have companies that work with vinyl for doll making, so we have been forced to outsource.

However, we do have tailors and designers, crochet ladies and shoemakers working on other aspects of the dolls locally.

How the dolls have been recieved by people so far

The success of the dolls has transcended borders and continents, and they have reached international markets.

Botswana has been amazing! The relevance is clearly understood, the need is very apparent and we can only express gratitude for all the support.

Media has been keen at each stage of their development, and young, hopeful Batswana are eagerly working to join the brand and with open arms, we are welcoming ideas and collaborations.

The dolls are currently available across Botswana, as well as re-sellers in Johannesburg, the Netherlands and the United States of America.

We have worked with brands like the Netball World Youth Cup, International Women in Sport, Botswana Tourism Organization and we are currently working on a project with Botswana Netball.

The growth of the business will definitely be stimulated by partnerships.  Partnering at different levels with others is beneficial.

I am working with so many individuals who want to run with certain aspects of the product and I have never been as relieved as the agreements come to fruition. I know now I cannot do it alone! 


Botswana is one of Africa’s success stories, from one of Africa’s poorest countries to a vibrant, developed, middle-income African state.

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4 ways to Deal with Stress as at work

Our work lives can bring along a certain level of stress upon us. The stress could come from dealing with expectations from bosses or supervisors.

There might be nerve-wracking deadlines that you have to meet up with. Or you could find yourself in a co-working space that makes it difficult to get work done. All of this could lead to stress.

Stress is not something that should be taken lightly, as it takes a negative toll on your body and mind.

It can cause you to either gain or lose weight, or result in physical symptoms such as having backaches or pounding headaches.

Stress also leads to a negative mindset. You can feel moody, or disturbed about your life. Needless to say, stress does no good.

Do not get overwhelmed by your To-Do list.

It is necessary to find ways to reduce and relieve yourself from it. I have some tips from my experience on how to find ways to deal with stress from work.


1. Prioritize and Delegate

As ladies, we often love to pride ourselves on multitasking. Multitasking is alright, but always trying to do too much all at once can lead you to severe stress or worse, a breakdown.

That’s why I’m all about prioritizing. You can still be productive by focusing on the most important things first, then, set aside time later or another day for other tasks.

Also, if you feel that too much is on your plate, don’t be afraid to speak up.

Don’t get caught up in wanting to be the “superwoman” but feeling completely exhausted.

In a workplace, there are often others around that you can lean on to carry some load off you. If there are members of your team that you can shift some responsibilities to, then pass on the information.

If you are a one-woman team but feel that there is too much going on, have a conversation with your boss. You might need to get an assistant or intern to help you accomplish all the duties.

2. Take that lunch break with Your co-workers

When the work seems to be pilling up and overwhelming you, having a fun conversation with your co-worker might feel like the last thing you want to do but it could help.

Having amicable connections with your co-workers could ease the tension and stress you feel from work.

Socializing with co-workers serves as an avenue for you to take a little break from work while still at work.

Your co-workers could even provide solutions to the stress you feel by offering their input or strategies to help you tackle a difficulty you might be facing. So do not spend your entire workday glued to your desk and laptop.

Look around at the people you work with, take a lunch break with someone.

3. Use Music to ease the tension


Music can bring some inner calm when work makes you want to pull your hair out. If you have a favorite artist and songs that will get you going, then have that playlist on your phone.

You can get your earpiece and tune into your favorite songs to help you get motivated or simply in a better mood.

If you’re not the type of person that can work with music on, then consider a short break from your desk. Often times, if we become too glued to a screen, it can cause headaches.

Get up from your desk and maybe stretch for a few minutes. Or get up from your desk and take a short walk outside the office building. After some time away from the desk, you could find yourself in a better mood. You could figure out a solution to tackle the task at hand.

4. Get your body moving to chase the worries away

Taking up a physical activity can be what you need to take your mind off the duties in the workplace. It can help you to feel better because of the endorphin that the body produces while working out.

Exercise can have numerous benefits. It not only keeps the body fit and healthy but it helps in the mindset.

When I graduated, left school life and started my first job, I had some level of stress. I had to get used to working structures, responsibilities and finding a work/life balance.

What helped me deal with the stress was keeping up with my exercise routine from university days.

Exercising was my outlet to not get so worried about whether I was doing things right. Exercise is was what boosted my mood to feel confident that I was capable of handling new responsibilities.

If you are not already taking up a physical activity, yet you have stress from work, then making time to workout matters. You could workout before or after your work or during the weekend would be helpful.


11 Traits to have in your single years – while waiting for a life partner

The single years can be fun and productive, but in some societies, the stigma that arises when you start getting close to a certain age can become overwhelming.

Beyond that, how can you make your single years transformational and fruitful before settling down? Here are some tips to help you:

1. Give more than you receive

This is the best time to start practicing how to share. When you get married, you’ll have to share your life with your spouse and if you have always felt that people were invading your space, this is the best time to start practicing.

Smile more, show courtesy, give out some things that you don’t need and volunteer with your time.

2. Start working on things that challenge your self-worth

Do you have issues with being confident? This is the best time to seek therapy on that. Do you feel you’re not tall or beautiful enough?

This is the best time to start seeing yourself in a positive light. Take time to evaluate what makes you feel less and start appreciating it.

In marriage, you wouldn’t want your spouse to be the source of your happiness because sometimes you’ll need to learn to enjoy your alone time. Nobody can complete you so start learning to love yourself.

3. Learn to manage your money

If you spend without a budget, plan or savings then you want to learn to manage your finance. You can start saving and investing now.

You can research on apps that allow you to save and invest and also learn more on business opportunities.

4. Learn to manage your home

If you can’t clean your space, then start owning your space well without the intention of your spouse arranging everything for you.

Learn to clean every corner of your house and practice good and healthy hygiene.

5. Be a praying person

Marriage has its own battles and you don’t want to go into marriage with an entitlement mentality.

You want to start praying for yourself, your spouse and children ahead. Learn to build a relationship with God in your single years so that you don’t build your world around your spouse alone.

6. This is time to work on your insecurities

There’re people who’ll get married and try to control or manipulate their spouse because of trust issues. This is time to stop projecting your fears on your partner.

Seek therapy and closure. It usually stems from your past experiences and it is better to seek for healing before you settle down.

7. Let go of pride

If you’ve pride issues, this is the time to start seeking professional help. Pride kills the beauty of marriage.

Don’t assume that your excesses will be managed. Pride comes before a fall.

8. Practice self-control

If you think marriage will help you to stop playing the field, that’s a mistake. Self-control is important because you won’t be having sex every day.

9. Start learning little act of commitment

Marriage works because of two committed people. Commitment should be practiced even when things are not going your way. It starts with your thoughts and decisions.

10. Travel to a new place

One of the beautiful things you can do in your single years is to go to new places and try new things. if you cannot afford to visit a different country, try traveling to another state to tour and meet new people.

11. Invest in your personal development

You should also use this period to read books, attend seminars and invest in yourself. I can’t emphasize this enough.

A lot of singles find it difficult to invest in their emotional life and it can be frustrating at the end of the day. Save yourself the stress of being hurt and clueless.

Learn and relearn. Learn about your personality type, your values, your deal-breaker, communication, love and apology languages, and so many other things.


Which of these do you want to start doing?

A ‘Maternity Leave’ Revolution is taking place on the continent

The topic of parental leave in Africa is a commonly contested issue that is brought to question time and time again. In many parts of the continent, actual maternity and paternity leave are non-existent. 

Distiller giant, Diageo have made a huge step in a positive direction regarding parental leave by being the first large scale employer in Africa to provide their staff with six months paid maternity leave and four weeks paternity leave on full rate pay in all their markets across the continent.

Diageo made this announcement in conjunction with their move to increase parental leave in their Western and Asian markets as well.

This is a big step in the corporate world given that very few (if any) employers in Africa are permitting six months of paid leave – which makes it easier for women in the workplace to be both mothers and have a career with little stringent time complications.

The International Labour Organization (ILO) states that 80% of women in Africa and Asia are deprived of maternity leave. In terms of paternity leave, the numbers are even lower with only eight countries out of 54 giving fathers more than a week’s paternity leave.

This debacle has made it difficult for African women who are/want to be mothers to progress in the workplace because it forces them to choose one or the other but never both.

SLA contributor – Diana had a sit down with HR director of the Diageo Africa division, Caroline Hirst, and Clemmie Raynsford, Head of Market Communications to learn about the steps taken and reasons for making such an empowering initiative come alive. 


Why did Diageo decide to do this now as opposed to say 2 – 4yrs ago?

Caroline: We have been really progressing on the gender diversity perspective, we’ve worked really heavily on representation on a leadership level and in every aspect of our business and in particular generally where women are underrepresented.

That has been really successful. However, we have recognized that the gender diversity agenda can’t just be about how many people of which gender you’ve got doing what things.

It’s much more a breakdown of stereotypes, how do you create an environment where everybody can succeed, that’s really our aim.

I was really keen to bring this policy in Africa because I think you can be forgiven for thinking that the gender diversity agenda is all about enabling women in Africa to do what men do which is not the case.

It’s about all of us think differently about how we work together and so having this shift around parental leave and particularly the shift around paternity leave across Africa has not only given men more benefits and women too but it’s also got people talking about the diversity agenda as something that’s relevant and a means to change for everybody.

Clemmie: It’s about us being a supportive employer and saying you can take more time with your family.

With the beverage industry being such an old fashioned industry, most of our big breweries in parts of Africa took it positively commenting that it’s a really pioneering step that’s actually saying we are an employer first and we care about our people and giving them the right to the environment to do their work in the best way possible.

If they need to be at home they can be and have their family and have that balance.

As a working mum, what does this new initiative by Diageo mean to you and your family?

Caroline: I was fortunate enough that when I had my children, the UK legislation already allowed mothers to take up to 40 weeks off.

When I had my daughter and took 6 months off leave, the main consideration for me as the primary bread-winner in my household was how would I afford to take that much time off?

When I had my son, I took a year off, most of it being unpaid so I feel that if this policy was in existence then, it would have made a lot more financial sense.

This new policy will make a difference for women across Africa. I also hope that more men will feel welcome to take the 4 weeks paternity leave and spend time at home with their families.

One of the things that we are seeking to do in our business is to make it okay for anybody to be a parent as opposed to it being something that only women can talk about or experience fully.

Clemmie: I think what’s great about this policy is that not only does it take the financial pressure off which probably is sort of 70-80% of the main factor.

But also, in saying that your company will give you full pay for 26 weeks off, it’s also saying that slightly the company is expecting you to want to and is absolutely fine with you taking that extended period of time off.

It’s the combination of being allowed and your employer saying – we support you and we know that you have a family, this is a crazy new stage in your life so not only will we help you financially but here is some extra time you most likely need.

The feedback from a lot of our African markets included people just suddenly feeling that sense of support that never existed before.

It has been very positive from our various East and West Africa businesses.

Why can’t fathers get the same amount of time off as mothers do?

Caroline: In the future, we could look at a possible potential for that.

Our intention is to create an environment where men can be fathers. And we think that moving to four weeks paternity leave whereas before in most markets it’s usually just two weeks or less, signals a progressive step forward.

We have operationally a few constraints around how we would extend that to six months here where the majority of the workforce is male, but aspirationally, would we like to change that in the future of course.

Image by Wayne Djokoto

Do you think this move will eventually result in a more motivated employee/worker?

Caroline: We definitely hope so. I guess it is part of a broader package that is contributing to an environment where everyone can do their best work.

And we think that everybody can do their best work when they are treated as a complete human being, when their home life is respected and when we enable people to make choices to have a fulfilled life.

Clemmie: I think that is the main point of the policy. We feel it is quite pioneering in where we are taking it around the world but equally, it is just one policy and there are many within a business that are designed to support people around our values and how we think people should be treated.

You can see that specifically in the female empowerment space. This policy has become a game changer for a lot of people who want to have families or are thinking about having another child etc.

To add to Caroline’s point – it’s got to be more than a policy, it’s got to be how people are feeling in the workplace and how they go through experiences with their line managers and their colleagues and with other opportunities.

When handling maternity/paternity breaks in your various establishments, do you include an additional labor cost or do you look at it as a way of scouting for new talent?

Caroline: Any policy has a cost, but this hasn’t been a discussion which has been driven by cost, it’s about who we want to be as an employer at a global level and some things are worth spending money on – this is something worth spending money on.

Plus we feel that the benefits outweigh any cost in terms of the retention of people, the attraction of people and really the living proof in one more manifestation of who we are as an organization and what it means to work for us, so yes it is a cost but it is worth it.

How do we handle workers not being around?

When you have those gaps, you have the opportunity to give other people more experience and more learning opportunities, so we see that as a definite opportunity and it can be managed in that way.

In Diageo, we are a company that invests very heavily and at the simplest level we believe that people learn the most and grow the most by doing different things and therefore maternity or paternity leave naturally creates an environment/opportunity for someone else.

We are also committed to the notion that when people go out on maternity leave and they leave a job, they come back to their job. We’ve not had a reaction where anybody thinks it’s insurmountable and certainly, if you look across Europe where longer maternity leaves have been mandated for many years people still manage it fine with no qualms at all.

Have you ever had an experience where the employee came back from maternity and couldn’t handle the work/mom life balance and didn’t perform as well as she used to?

Caroline: When you come back from having a baby, your life is different. From my own experience, I came back to a new job that demanded more time from me for travel and the like, so it was a massive change in my working environment and it was the hardest in my professional career.

I doubted myself and I had to work really hard to find a way to be a mum and to also do my job.

In Africa, it’s really the same kind of balance struggle, we all have to find our own way of reconciling those different life aspects.

We try as best as we can to be considerate and to give people permission to do what they need to do to cater to what is a huge transition in life.

What we don’t want is for women to feel that they have to be superhuman, which is kind of what we tell ourselves as women that we have to do to manage everything at once.

We try and sort of humanize our workplace and have people share their stories so that other people feel that everything doesn’t have to be perfect all the time.

We also encourage men to tell the same stories and to feel that they can also do those things. It is important to have an environment where people can talk about their home life, and that counts for men and women and we are certainly trying to work towards an environment of gender parity. Our intention with all of this change is not just about women but it’s for both genders to progress in both their professional and personal lives.

What do you envision for the future of parental leave in Africa?

Caroline: We really hope that it does encourage other organizations to think about that provision.

This policy is generally trying to create a discussion on how men and women work together and gender stereotypes and what does a progressive business look like… so hopefully it’ll create more of debate beyond should we be spending money on parental leave.

Caroline Hirst, HR Director, Diageo Africa

Historically, the approach that we took here in Diageo is we had benchmarked other companies and markets in Africa and Diageo’s aim was to be better than the market, but we decided to take a break from the past and said forget the market because the market wasn’t going to get us anywhere, let’s focus on what do we think is right, let’s do that and everybody else can follow.

Clemmie: The onus is really on us now because when we announced it, the focus was on making sure everybody internally really understood because this is primarily for our employees and it’s important that they feel good about it and about the fact that they work for a company that is thinking about this and about them.

Now the onus on us is to make sure that people like Jane Karuku (our MD in Kenya’s EABL); when they’re out attending major events, that they are referencing the kind of progressive stance that we as Diageo want to take.

It’s not about a policy and a cost, it’s about a culture that is making your employees happy and to want to do great work because they have the flexibility and the support that they need, so the return on investment is exponentially better.

There is a bit of work to be done in making bigger awareness of this change and this initiative around Africa, and hopefully it does get more people thinking and gets African businesses to fully understand that it’s not just a large international company that can afford this but they can as well and they can see what the benefit is from an employee engagement and activity perspective.


This month of July, we’re telling stories about boss ladies breaking boundaries, and how you also can hit your #BossLadyGoals. Got a boss lady story to share with us? Click here.

Robinah Nansubuga: My main drive is to always create alternative spaces

The African art scene in Africa is growing, developing and more exciting than ever.

With many African artists making a name for themselves – both at home and around the world – how does one get into the art scene when not being an artist yourself?

Robinah Nansubuga is an Independent Curator and Set Designer based in Kampala, Uganda. She implements strategies to promote artists and develop the artistic network in East Africa.

She has curated and led artistic projects across the continent and the world. Robinah was the artistic director of MTN Nyege Nyege 2018 – a festival organized with grants from the British Council.

This Motherland Mogul is also a former committee member for Laba! Street Art Festival, Arterial Network Uganda Chapter, a judge curator at the National Civil Society Fair art Competitions (CSO), co-curator of the Kampala Contemporary Art festival – and much more arts festival across the region.


How did you become an independent curator of arts festivals?

I have always been a huge fan of festivals they were my get away from everything that one place that I felt included and happened to forget the things happening home and in my life at that time.

After having worked for two galleries in Kampala (Afriart and fas fas gallery) I became an independent curator in 2012. I wanted to experience art in a space where audiences and makers get to meet.

Therefore I started curating ‘’EKYOTO UGANDA ‘’ during the Bayimba International Arts festival. Ekyoto was a bonfire project that I curated to bring together people through games like ‘’Dulu’’ – which today would come close to being a pool table.

Integrating the social aspects with Ugandan traditional ways of entertainment turned out to be a big success.

From there, I started to think and focus on how to create arts and cultural events that are inclusive and show a variety of art forms.

What skills do non-artists need to make it in the arts sector?

Organizational skills! Arts festivals usually do not have big budgets. So being efficient, conscious of costs and committed to timelines are key to make any festival a reality.

Also, it’s very important that you are good at collaborating. Festivals are all about collaborations, not only with the other people on the team – but also with the artists and don’t forget the audience.

Successful arts festivals can only be realized by listening to all involved because in that way new ideas can develop.

I would also suggest that it’s good to develop some creative skills yourself. This will help you understand who you are working with and it will help you develop your own creative vision.

And finally, practical skills – from basic electrician know-how to carpentry and designing – will always come in handy during the actual festival.

Tell us how you develop your own vision and execute that vision?

I am fortunate by now I get invited by festivals to work with them because I have built a name for myself through my vision.

Through the exhibitions, I created my main drive is always to create alternative spaces. My vision developed over the years.

Whenever I would attend arts of the cultural festival I would look for the things I felt were missing and that would have been of added value to the festival and the audiences.

However, when being approached by a festival you usually have to work in teams meaning that the vision is not yours alone.

What have been your biggest challenges in the cultural scene? And how did you overcome these challenges?

Being a woman who looks really young definitely didn’t help. I really had to push hard to make sure my ideas were not being undermined, but actually listened to.

It’s a very male-dominated sector so as a woman you have to bring yourself to think like a man, be able to do all the physical and mental jobs they can do in order to have a smooth working relationship.

Another challenge that needs political navigation is that the cultural scene can be very much of a clique scene at times.

This can mean that collaborating with on one project, might mean you are not able to be involved in another.

That is one of the main reasons why I became an independent curator as I’d like to focus on the work instead of potential conflict of interests.

I believe that sooner or later, every challenge can be overcome. You can start by educating yourself, trying to surround yourself with the right people who believe in your goals.

And, at times you have to be ready to compromise while staying passionate. plus let your work speak more for you.

I am lucky I earned my respect in the industry and for that am still very thankful to many artists and people that still believe and believed I could do more than I was doing.

You recently curated the Kigali Photo Fest. How did you decide what to include in the exhibition?  

Kigali Photo Fest has a vision and mission that really resonated with me. It’s about celebrating Africa’s diversity through photography as a medium of art.

The theme of the first edition was ‘In search of relevance – locality and remediation’ – which is about sharing and navigating ideas of identity, memory, experience, intimacy, presence, and connection, in order to co-opt a narrative through a selection of subject matter and presentation.

They present a historically, socially significant moment and can frame the conversation around those moments, therefore, it wasn’t so difficult to include.

We approached artists with the vision and the theme of the festival and many responded positively.

It is a special project that hopes to include many African photographers and teach photography as a medium of art to earn its respect, to start looking for new audiences and to mostly tell stories about other places in Africa that one might not be able to visit but have an idea through images.

Therefore it is about the continent sharing with each other.

Was your family always supportive of your dream to pursue a career in the cultural and arts sector?

My dad and mum met in drama school, but my father ended being a Mechanical Engineer.

So my father understood the appeal of arts and culture to be he said you also have to be able to look after yourself financially.

We really need to educate our families to be our first fans, audiences and to be the next big support systems we can depend on.

We also have the responsibility to take the effort and be patient to teach them so that not only our families but also our societies, can better understand.

In this video, Robinah shares more about collaborations within the East Africa art sector, establishing a creative vision during the last Nyege Nyege festival in Kampala.

This video was produced in cooperation with the British Council.


This article was written by Marthe van der Wolf

What went down at the #IAMORIGINAL Boss Brunch & Panel – Johannesburg

Curated within the beautiful landscape of Jozi on a peaceful Sunday, She Leads Africa in partnership with The Cut Life and Originals by Africa’s Best held a Boss Brunch and panel with the finest Motherland Mogul influencers of Africa.

The location was a hidden oasis of tranquility, The Gabriela’s Tea Room, perfect for some girl chat, champagne was flowing, the crowd was buzzing. What a beautiful Sunday.

In the era of feminism and self-love, you do find some false prophets that don’t live up to their campaign inside as loudly as they may be online.

What was important about the #IAMORIGINAL panel and brunch was that it focused on the challenges black women struggle through.

The theme that stood out from the event was the need for women to back each other up and actually mean it.

For the older and younger generation to join minds and create solutions for the Motherland Moguls that follow.

The event kicked off with a warm welcome from the bubbly Shanon Stanislaus of Originals by Africa’s Best. She spoke about the benefits of their new Coconut Creme range that has nutrition rich formulas, helping your natural hair with the foundation its needs for hair goals.

I tried some of the samples from the gift bag and I am sold on the products, which are available from Clicks nationwide or through The Originals by Africa’s best website.

We then proceeded into an hour-long networking bingo session, that had our Influencers and Motherland Moguls buzzing through the room, the energy was so lively- It felt like the best girl chat session I’ve been to in ages.

We held bingo cards that had questions such as “Who in the room has three pets, Who is an only child”. These were great ice breakers, especially for an introvert like myself.

Back to our tables, we were served incredible dishes by The Gabriela’s Tea Room patrons, everything delicious and mouthwatering.

This amazing panel was moderated by Tahira Joy of The Cut Life joined by Shanon Stanislaus (Originals by Africa’s Best), Enhle Mbali (Actress), Azania Mosaka (Broadcaster) and Jamelia Donaldson (Founder of Treasure Tress).

They spoke on self-care and beauty, ways to effectively run your business and respect yourself and values in the process.

We all got a few tips on how to reach your next Boss level in entrepreneurship through their stories, lessons and best practices.

Azania Mosaka dropped so many nuggets that had all the women in agreement throughout.

“Stick to your values and you’ll always win" – @Azania_ Click To Tweet

In the entertainment industry women are made to choose to get ahead either giving their bodies or having to dumb down their intellect so at to seem less of a threat to colleagues.

As shocking as it may sound, these are challenges most women are still overcoming.

A recurring theme throughout the Boss brunch and panel was how women need to remain educated and curious in our endeavors and not forgetting the people we build our dreams with.

“If you’re starting your race, be invaluable to your team.” – Shanon Stanislaus..

There’s only so much you can do as an individual, once you realize your expertise is invaluable, the impossible is just as attainable as anything.

We truly are better together.

On the theme of staying curious in what your interests are, Jamelia Donaldson of Treasure Tress stated…

You don’t know what you want to do until you’ve tried it all”. Click To Tweet

“ You don’t know what you want to do until you’ve tried it all”.

This tied in so well with the events hashtag of the day #IAMORIGINAL, when you apply yourself and work on what your secret sauce is, what do you really have to lose ?

All in all, this was an event, unlike any other networking event I have been to, which is saying a lot as I have been to a ton of networking sessions and gone home feeling as though I barely received much value from the speakers.

It could be just how intimate the brunch was or the fact that everyone left their egos at the door and simply wanted to celebrate each other.

I have nothing but praise for what these women aimed to share through the event and I believe that we can all learn from them.

As Motherland Moguls we are constantly inspiring those around us, we may not realize it a lot of the times, the best thing we can do is live an intention-driven life in our goals, decisions, and actions.

Work within the passion and not ego, power or status.

I’m definitely looking forward to more events from these powerhouses.


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