The GLAMOUR Women’s Month Series is an ode to women who are following the beat of their drum and doing it successfully.
If ‘You deserve a seat at the table’ was a person—it would be the phenomenal force that is Amanda Dambuza.
The multi award-winning entrepreneur is the Founder and CEO of Uyandiswa; a project management consulting firm she launched back in 2013. She is also Founder and Director of Leadership Development Strategies which offers mentoring, coaching, talent management and team development.
Amanda has extensive experience working in IT in the Financial Services sector. She has occupied various senior positions at all four of the major banks in South Africa. Her last roles (before venturing into business) includes being the Chief Information Officer at Barclay Africa, and Financial Services Director of JSE listed software organisation, Adapt IT.
Her endless string of achievements includes being the First Black Female Chairperson of a bank in South Africa, and being a guest speaker at the World Economic Forum Cape Town in 2019. She also occupies a seat on several boards and directorships.
Amanda chronicles her struggles and the strength of the human spirit in her book, Baked in Pain: Your Traumatic Past May Be Just the Fuel You Need to Soar.
‘’I spend every waking moment of my life defying societal norms. I am a true example of making up my own rules for my life and then forging ahead and enjoying it,’’ she tells GLAMOUR.
Which woman has made a positive impact on you in your career, business and in life? And what is the one lesson she taught you?
I am blessed with amazing women in my life, some that I have known for a short period of time, others longer. They range from those who opened that first door for me in business to those that continuously champion my cause and position me for opportunities that support my vision.
I have learnt that I get this much support because I support other women as my life’s mission. Contrary to popular belief women do support each other.
What are the three words that spring to mind when you hear the words, Women's Day/Month?
Recognition. Reflection. Action.
For you, what is the most beautiful thing about being a woman?
You mean besides the fact that we are heavenly beings? I believe that the most beautiful thing about being a woman is our ability to do it all, or at least try to do it all. We are multi-faceted, and it truly is amazing how we can carry everyone and everything on our shoulders without ever complaining. It is our empathy and compassion that drives this. As beautiful as this is, it can also be our downfall.
Have you seen much movement in terms of gender equality in your industry?
Significantly so. I am in Information Technology and I have seen a huge shift in the number of young girls and women entering the industry and starting to occupy what was always seen as traditionally male roles.
I am immensely proud that I have played an important role over the last 20 years in shifting perceptions about so called male dominated industries including addressing the pay gap.
It is fantastic to see the strides made thus far as we should be measured by our intellect, competence and leadership abilities rather than be discounted based on the construct of our bodies.
As a modern African woman—that is a powerhouse in her own right—how do you manoeuvre around expectations of what Africa believes a woman should be, particularly in countries that are rooted in patriarchy like ours?
I spend every waking moment of my life defying societal norms. I am a true example of making up my own rules for my life and then forging ahead and enjoying it.
Every role I play and how I show up for it is purely based on what feels right with me, not others. I have grown confident enough in my own skin to know what is good for me. I refuse to have people force down customs and cultures down my throat just to keep me under their control. If it does not serve me, it has no place in my life.
I am incredibly vocal about how we as women continue to condone and support the oppression of women all in the name of culture and customs. Those are the effects of patriarchy. Yes, take what works for you but let that be your choice.
I refuse to be put in a box and told what I must wear, how to keep my hair, how to sit, when to speak. I am raising my girl children to never tolerate being boxed or being led to believe they are less worthy than their boy counterparts or their brother.
I hate the effects of patriarchy on the girl child and women at large, so we must decisively dismantle it. In fact, we must continuously teach our boy children about masculinity that destroys. They must know that we are all partners in life and none is more equal than the other. They must know that the woman’s body belongs to her to do what she chooses with it, they have no right over her.
Imposter syndrome is something a number of women confess to battle with or have suffered from. Have you ever had to deal with it? What would you say to another woman reading this about not letting this run one’s life in any way?
I address this issue on a daily basis through my mentorship of other women as well as my live sessions on Instagram.
I made a conscious decision when I was in my late teens and early twenties to invest in myself. I appreciated that I am a black girl, who grew up in the rural areas under Apartheid. I also suffered immense abuse and trauma in my childhood. These were always going to be in the way of my progress. The imposter syndrome was guaranteed.
I knew I needed a lot of help to deal with the perception I had of myself, therefore, my personal development and cultivating a greater sense of self was at the forefront of my journey through my career. I saw a lot of psychologists and counsellors. This was really to help me balance the spiritual view I had of myself in relation to the view of the world.
I obtained an education through great financial difficulty, but I was convinced that it was my only shot at an invite to the table. At the back of all the inner work I was doing, I knew I would represent myself well once I got there but without a degree no one would even bother talking to me. I did not come from a great family name and really had nothing to write home about. I chronicle my struggle very well in my book, Baked in Pain.
Self-awareness is key in dealing with the imposter syndrome. Invest in understanding who you are, where you have come from and what has shaped you. Once you grasp that you will then get a sense of how you show up in the world. How is that congruent with your idea and knowledge of self?
Imposter syndrome has a lot to do with underlying issues that have gone unresolved and they then meet a world that has little to offer you in terms of support. It shows up the most when you are gaining some traction and getting opportunities. You therefore start to talk yourself out of them because you do not believe you are worthy of them.
There is no easy way to dealing with the syndrome. It is a journey. Do the inner work. Get whatever training you require to sharpen your skills and forge ahead building your competence. You deserve to be at that table, you have earned that seat. Let no one tell you or make you feel otherwise.
So, no I have never suffered from imposter syndrome because I pre-empted it and went to work. I invested in ensuring that I can see it coming, identify it for what it is and stay above it, even when those around me were doing their best to make me feel out of place.
Gender Based Violence (GBV) especially women and children abuse has been prevalent in the country for a very long time and there have been various initiatives that speak to this, but the scourge of abuse still continues at a large scale. What are your thoughts/your advice as a solution going forward?
Gender Based Violence continues at such a rampant pace because it goes unpunished. It is perpetrated in the homes because it is often treated as a family matter.
There are little to no consequences in South Africa for abusing the vulnerable. It is a sad state of affairs and a huge let down to our girl children and women who are continuously told by the system that the men who abuse them are far more worthy than they are.
It is a disgusting and heart-breaking reality that we as women are subjected to. It is a lonely road that leads to depression, suicide and of course femicide.
We must lift the veil of silence by telling our stories boldly and loudly even if you are seen to be airing your dirty linen. We must fight against our own families to ensure that perpetrators are brought to book and held accountable for their actions. We must scream from the roof tops and demand that the justice system does something. We must look out for one another and protect the girl child with everything we have, even if it means losing livelihoods.
Let there be safe spaces for women to run to and seek help without judgement and persecution.
The moral fibre of our society must awaken and do something, never shy away from taking action, saying it is between a man and his wife. Communities must protect the vulnerable from themselves.
It is also our duty to raise young women who are economically emancipated such that they never have to trade their dignity and sense of self for a plate of food.
With Black Lives Matter being at the forefront and black people calling out racism and transformation.what do you think we can teach the next generation about inclusion and representation?
We must first and foremost teach them about their sense of worth in our own homes.
They must know about the history of discrimination, the world over. They must appreciate that this freedom came at a very high cost and that they should never take it for granted by letting people abuse and discriminate against them because of the colour of their skin.
They must never doubt their voice and fight for the causes that will shift humanity forward as they would have seen that mobilization of the collective to fight the right cause is going to be the real currency.
I hope the racist people have by now realised that there is no place for them in the future we are trying to build for our children. A non-racial future where all are treated equal and with dignity.
Why is self-care important to you, and for women in general, as most of us have been raised/conditioned to believe we must put everyone else first before ourselves?
Those rules are one of the things we must abolish as they do not serve us. They were designed to enslave women and make them feel like they must explain themselves and be apologetic for just taking some time to look after themselves.
I spend an insane amount of time advocating for this. Women can never give to anyone if they themselves have nothing to give. Look after yourself first then everyone will be well looked after and nurtured. I am a living example; I never cheat myself.
Our mental, physical, emotional and spiritual health is critical in ensuring that we stay in tune and connected to the world we are building and nurturing. We are not effective at all if we just keep running on fumes.
We deserve to be happy before we go running around making others happy.
How can you give love when you have no love of self? Everything starts there, so it is to the benefit of nations to ensure that women take the time they need to care for themselves. Do not expect it though, so just do it for yourself.
What is the one thing you would like to see done or pushed to commemorate Women’s day/month?
It is not enough to have lovely events with pink flowers and goodie bags. It is what is done as a way of life that truly matters. You cannot pretend to publicly celebrate women and then allow gross injustice against them.
Outside of the home where we should be nipping these acts of violence against women, corporates and other places of business must decisively act against sexual harassment and bullying in the workplace. The huge gender pay gap that continues must end.
They must stop paying lip service and publicly hold themselves accountable for the continuing atrocities against women. They must act to change the landscape.
Baked in Pain can be ordered at www.amandadambuza.com.