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GLAMOUR Women’s Month Series: Mbuso Khoza

Mbuso Khoza. Image: Supplied
Mbuso Khoza. Image: Supplied

The GLAMOUR Women’s Month Series is an ode to women who are following the beat of their drum and doing it successfully.

In today’s instalment of the Women’s Month Series, we are celebrating one of our own; the CEO of Condѐ Nast South Africa, Mbuso Khoza.

Mbuso’s career progression and achievements are awe-inspiring. BEREKA MOSADI (and don’t make a NOISE about it), is written all over her work ethic. She is a leader with a heart for people whose door is always open, in every sense.

Born and raised in Ndengeza, Limpopo Province, Mbuso completed high school at the tender age of 15. She graduated with a Master’s degree in Law from WITS University when she was just 21 years old. Mbuso considers herself a lifelong learner and is almost done with her fourth degree—a BCom in Marketing from UNISA. She’s also completed the Senior Management Development Programme from GIBS and short-courses in Digital Marketing.

A soft-spoken yet firm and astute leader, she is armed with 18 years of corporate experience working in the legal field, the FMCG sector, recruitment, property management and marketing.

Mbuso firmly believes there’s a divine algorithm directing her steps. ‘’If you had told me ten years ago, that I would be in the magazine environment, I would have probably said you are absolutely out of your mind! But as far as leading and being responsible for people is concerned—there are no surprises I am where I am right now. Even though the specifics keep ironing themselves out in front of my eyes.’’

As career-driven and focused as she is, her greatest passion is being a wife and mother to her two boys.

‘’I would like to see more engagement on women issues at different societal and corporate hierarchies. But more than anything, we need to stop being too political. We need to stop treating women’s month and women’s issues, as PR issues. We need to get our hands dirty and do something about it,’’ asserts Mbuso.

Lean in and get inspired as she shares her thoughts and some words of wisdom on patriarchy, #BlackLivesMatter, gender-based violence, and much more.

Mbuso Khoza. Image: Supplied

Which woman has positively impacted you in your career/business? And what is the one lesson she taught you?

It is without a doubt, my mother Mihloti Mabunda, who sadly passed away recently. My mother was a dynamic and selfless person. She was a community builder, a professional, wife and mother of seven children. Dare I say, she was a ’Jill and master’ of all trades. A highly intelligent and well-read woman that related to people from all walks of life with ease. She was such a calm and gentle soul and yet a profound thought-leader, with a passion for helping others succeed.

The greatest lesson she taught me is that with God, all things are possible. Another profound lesson was that education was the key—but ultimately it is your character that will take you far and beyond.

What are the three words that spring to mind when you hear Women's Day/Month?

Mbokodo.

Sebenza Girl. No one does the hustle better than women. Look around any home, village, township, town and city and tell me who is in charge – not who seems to be in charge.

Senzeni na? This old struggle song comes to mind because sadly, the struggles of women tend to be highlighted during Women’s month, making it a rather bitter-sweet commemoration.

For you, what is the most beautiful thing about being a woman?

That we are nurturers. I know that this statement will be put under scientific microscopes which is the one of the saddest things about women and women’s issues. Everything about us has to be politicised, making every aspect of us a subject of intellectual scrutiny. Whilst our nurturing ability is sometimes misconceived to be a weakness, it is in my opinion actually our competitive edge.

In your industry or in general, have you seen any more movement to gender equality in the workplace?

In the aftermath of Level 3 lock-down, the media industry got so negatively impacted that it would rather be insensitive of me to speak for the industry as a whole. However, for our group of companies, most definitely gender equality has always been on top of our agenda. I am glad that as an executive in publishing of women’s interest magazines such as GLAMOUR and House & Garden—I can say that we are fully invested in uplifting and giving women in our organisation (and in the group as a whole) a fair chance. That is all we are asking for as women, a levelled playing field.

As a woman, who looks to inspire young girls that look like you what are some of the measures you think should be put in place to assure young girls have an equal say in society?

It all should start at home. My father played a huge role in building my confidence. The way he just let my mother be, made me and my sisters believe that we could do anything, as long as we worked hard for it. If men, (fathers, sons, uncles, brothers) could show women this same level of respect, young girls should have a solid foundation and not have to question their worth.

Mbuso Khoza. Image: Supplied

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?

The Black Lives Matter movement is nothing new. Over the years, anti-racism protests have taken different forms in different parts of the world. The continuous resurgence of these movements is an indication of how entrenched racism is in our society. It is imperative that we not shield our kids from tough race-related conversations. We need to be comfortable engaging and educating them on racial politics. Once we have done the education at home, we can then take the discussion to the boardroom and other public platforms. Racism emanates mainly from ignorance and that’s why we have been getting counter-arguments with ill-informed statements such as “all lives matter”.

Ignorance is better addressed by education and you need to be well-informed to educate. Whilst racism is quite topical at the moment and rightfully so, we should also not shy away from tackling other forms of discrimination such as xenophobia, tribalism and classism. We need to be mindful of the fact that the younger generation will always learn from behaviours modelled by their elders. No one person is born racist. It is usually witnessed and learned in the home environment.

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 would you advise as a solution going forward? And who should be involved?

We have seen how the scourge of GBV escalate during the Covid-19 lock-down. Key institutions such as the home, school and places of worship should be at the forefront of protecting women and children by addressing the underlying causes of GBV at grass-roots level.

Ironically, one of the major stumbling blocks to a GBV-free society in this democracy is our Constitution. Criminals have too many rights, making it difficult for the justice system to bring them to book. The very same Constitution that is meant to protect women and children against abuse has proven to be an enabler.

GBV should not be seen as an isolated issue. It’s a complex societal issue integrated with several other social ills. Civil society, men in particular should stand with women and advocate for the overhaul of the entire ecosystem. This includes scaling up prevention and response initiatives, education from primary school level, ensuring that police officials are trained to handle GBV matters with the required level of sensitivity—a speedy criminal justice system, harsher sentencing for perpetrators, as well as support programs for victims.

As a modern African woman—that is a powerhouse in her own right—how do you manoeuvre the African expectations of what Africans believes a woman should be, particularly in countries that are rooted in patriarchy like ours?

I am passionate about Africa and how she continues to emancipate as she tries to in the midst of some of the harshest scrutiny—to establish her own voice, whilst denouncing several inherent and imposed stereotypes. I think Africa has always respected the place and power that women hold in society, but has sometimes been misunderstood, more especially when women started venturing in the workplace, which was an uncharted territory.

Patriarchy is a global, as opposed to an African phenomenon. Patriarchy is real; however, I think that we sometimes unconsciously continue to give it too much credit when its impact has in fact been weakened significantly over the years. It really is over-rated.

In the early years of my career, I made the mistake of focusing on challenging patriarchal tendencies to the extent that I lost my own essence. As soon as I started focusing on getting my light to shine, that became an instant repellent to patriarchy.

It is up to women to give themselves permission to be, by being comfortable in their own skins and not conform to what society expects them to be. That way patriarchy will eventually fade away as it would have no victim to be projected towards. Men and women have no choice but to co-exist. If both sexes are comfortable with who they are, there should be no need for competition.

The imposter syndrome is something a lot of women confess to suffer from or have suffered from. Have you ever had to deal with it? What would you say to another woman reading this about not letting the syndrome run one’s life in anyway?

It’s unfortunate that a lot of women experience this. Personally, I have never had this issue. I’m trying to think if I am being defensive or ignorant. My source of confidence comes from being a believer. I am where I am because God has put me there for a purpose.

I believe that when God grants me an opportunity to do something, He also provides the grace to help me fulfil the assignment.

I consider myself as a lifelong learner, so I don’t have room for self-doubt and inadequacy. I’m always on a journey of learning. I thrive on change to the extent that I have become a master of just-in-time learning. You can put me in any situation, and I will just adapt immediately and try adjust myself accordingly. I always trust where God puts me and don’t entertain thoughts that will fight with my mission that I’ve been given at the time.

I want to encourage women to allow themselves to just be. Remember that no one has everything figured out. When you are given an opportunity, you will need to learn one or two things. We learn as we go. Don’t fret or judge yourself harshly. Be gentle with yourself.

Why is self-care important, particularly for women, as most of us are raised to believe we must put everyone else first before ourselves?

For me, self-care is a very personal concept and journey. It is quite subjective and there is no right or wrong way to practising self-care. For me self-care starts from within. It starts with my relationship with God. When I’m more in tune with Him, I find I function better that way. Self-care for me is the opposite of just taking care of me. I get fulfilment from taking care of others, that is just part of my DNA. My health, well-being, happiness is derived from looking after others, that’s how I get inner peace and inner joy—that is self-care for me.

As much as my self-care is centred around caring for others, there are times where I have had to walk away from certain situations and relationships, that were harmful or not adding value in my life as a form of self-care.

What does women’s month mean to you and what would you like to see being done to push or commemorate this month?

I would like to think that being able to commemorate this month is a victory for women in itself, as during my grandmother’s time this was unheard of. I think the plight of women needs to be highlighted more. I would like to see more engagement on women issues at different societal and corporate hierarchies. But more than anything, we actually need to stop being too political. We need to stop treating women’s month and women’s issues, as PR issues. We need to get our hands dirty and do something about it. For example, you hear politicians speak about it, or an analyst being interviewed and you get the sense that people are just talking to build their profiles or just going through the motions. Year on year we are talking the same issues, we are quoting stats and nothing really gets done.

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