The Women’s Business Club Conference taking place on the 9th of August is a platform which seeks to elevate and empower women under the leadership of its Club Directors, Michelle Austin and Angie Wells. Here, Michelle lets us in on the idea behind the #ElevateHER2023 Conference by the Women’s Business Club.
Glamour: Let’s talk about the idea behind the #ElevateHER2023 Conference by the Women’s Business Club?
Michelle Austin: The idea behind the #ElevateHER2023 Conference by Women's Business Club is to create a holistic platform to elevate and empower women. The conference is designed to address the various aspects of a woman's life, including professional, personal, spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical. The holistic approach of the conference is rooted in the understanding that all these aspects are interconnected and influence one another. For instance, a woman's professional success can be influenced by her personal well-being, and her physical health can impact her mental state. The conference aims to provide resources, knowledge, and networking opportunities that can help women thrive in all these areas.
It's about creating a supportive environment where women can learn, grow, and uplift each other. The ultimate goal of the #ElevateHER2023 Conference is to foster a community of happy, fulfilled, purposeful, and successful women who can perform better professionally and personally. The conference is a celebration of women's strength, resilience, potential and a commitment to helping them realise their full potential.
Glamour: It will be taking place on Women's Day. Talk to us about the significance of this?
Michelle: The #ElevateHER2023 Conference by the Women’s Business Club taking place on Women's Day is highly significant. Women's Day in South Africa is a powerful reminder of the strength, courage, and resilience of women. It commemorates the 1956 march of approximately 20,000 women who protested against the discriminatory pass laws of the apartheid era. This act of collective resistance has become a symbol of women's empowerment and the fight for equality in South Africa.
By aligning the #ElevateHER2023 Conference with Women's Day, the Women’s Business Club is honoring this rich history of women's activism and resilience. It's a way of acknowledging the struggles that women have faced in the past, while also focusing on the opportunities and challenges that women encounter today, particularly in the realm of business. Moreover, this alignment underscores the conference's commitment to advancing women's rights and opportunities. It sends a strong message that the empowerment of women is not just about individual success, but also about collective action and solidarity, much like the Women's March of 1956.
In essence, holding the conference on Women's Day serves to inspire attendees by connecting them to a broader movement for women's rights and equality. It's a reminder that every woman in business today is part of a larger story of progress and resistance, and that they too have a role to play in advancing gender equality in the business world and beyond.
Glamour: What sort of conversations are you hoping will emanate from the conference?
Michelle: The #ElevateHER2023 Conference aims to foster a variety of meaningful and impactful conversations. Here are some of the key conversations which we hope will emerge:
Holistic Well-being: Given the conference's focus on holistic health, we expect conversations about the importance of mental, emotional, and physical health in achieving professional success. We want to explore how women can take care of their overall well-being while pursuing their career goals.
Empowerment and Leadership: We hope to inspire dialogues around women's leadership, empowerment, and the unique strengths and perspectives that women bring to the business world. We want to discuss strategies for women to assert themselves, take on leadership roles, and make their voices heard in their respective industries.
Entrepreneurship: We anticipate discussions on the challenges and opportunities faced by women entrepreneurs, including access to capital, networking, balancing business and family life, and overcoming gender biases in the business world.
Professional Development: We expect conversations about career growth, skill development, mentorship, and networking. We want to explore how women can support each other in their professional journeys and how organisations can foster environments that support women's advancement.
Work-Life Balance: We hope to address the issue of work-life balance, particularly in the context of the unique challenges faced by women. This includes discussions on managing family responsibilities, self-care, and maintaining mental and physical health.
Inclusion and Diversity: We aim to promote dialogues about the importance of diversity and inclusion in the workplace. This includes discussions on how to create inclusive work cultures where women of all backgrounds feel valued and respected.
Policy and Advocacy: We hope to inspire conversations about the role of policy in promoting gender equality and how women in business can advocate for policies that support women's economic empowerment.
In essence, we hope the conference will spark conversations that both elevate and empower women, promote equality, and inspire change in the business world and beyond.
Glamour: What can guests most look forward to on the day?
Michelle: #ElevateHER2023 Conference attendees can look forward to a day filled with elevation, inspiration, learning, and networking. Here are some of the key highlights:
Expert Insights: The conference will feature a line-up of accomplished speakers who will share their experiences, insights, and advice on a range of topics related to women in business. These talks will provide valuable learning opportunities for attendees.
Networking Opportunities: Attendees will have the chance to connect with like-minded individuals, industry leaders, and potential mentors or collaborators. The conference will facilitate one-on-one networking opportunities and speed networking sessions, providing a platform for meaningful connections.
Interactive Sessions: The conference will include interactive sessions where attendees can engage in discussions, ask questions, and share their perspectives. These sessions will foster a dynamic and engaging learning environment.
Expo Area: Guests will have access to the Expert Pod (expo) area, where they can explore various exhibits, learn about new products or services, and interact with other businesses.
Wellness Activities: In line with the conference's focus on holistic health, there will be wellness activities designed to promote physical, mental, and emotional well-being.
Goodie Bags: Depending on the ticket package, attendees will receive goodie bags filled with items such as a one-month subscription to the Elevated Mindset Programme, Epsom salts, a power bank, and a few other surprises.
Luxury Accommodation and Dining: For those opting for the VIP (Platinum) or VVIP (Diamond) packages, they can look forward to luxury accommodation at the Radisson Hotel, sundowners and fine dining experiences with other VIP and VVIP guests, speakers, influencers and the organisers, access to fitness and spa facilities, and more.
Celebration of Women's Day: As the conference takes place on National Women's Day, it will be a special occasion to celebrate the achievements of women and to reflect on the progress made towards gender equality.
In essence, delegates can look forward to a day of empowerment, growth, and celebration at the #ElevateHER2023 Conference.
Glamour: Please let us in on your role as the Gauteng Director of the Women’s Business Club? What does it entail?
Michelle: As the Gauteng Director of the Women's Business Club, my role is multifaceted and centred around empowering women in business. Some of the key responsibilities and activities that my role entails include:
Leadership: I provide strategic direction and leadership for the club's activities in Gauteng. This involves setting goals, developing plans, and overseeing the implementation of initiatives that support our mission of empowering women in business.
Networking and Events: I organise and host networking events, workshops, and seminars that provide opportunities for our members to connect, learn, and grow. These events often feature guest speakers who share their expertise and insights on various business topics.
Member Support: I serve as a point of contact for our members in Gauteng, providing support and guidance as needed. This can involve answering questions, offering advice, or connecting members with resources that can help them succeed in their business endeavours.
Advocacy: I advocate for the interests of women in business, both within our organisation and in the broader business community. This can involve speaking at events, participating in discussions, and working with other organisations to promote gender equality in business.
Partnerships: I work to establish partnerships with other organisations, businesses, and community groups. These partnerships can provide additional resources and opportunities for our members and help us to expand our impact.
Membership Growth: I work to grow our membership in Gauteng by reaching out to potential members, promoting the benefits of joining the Women's Business Club, and ensuring that our current members are satisfied and engaged.
In essence, my role as the Gauteng Director of the Women's Business Club is all about supporting and empowering women in business. It's a role that I find incredibly rewarding, as it allows me to make a positive impact on the lives of women entrepreneurs and business leaders, which is aligned with my personal purpose.
Glamour: You’re also the Financial Director of the Keegor group of companies and were recently recognised at the Forty Under Forty Africa Awards 2023. Firstly congratulations! What does this accolade mean to you?
Michelle: Thank you for your congratulations! Being recognised at the Forty Under Forty Africa Awards 2023 is an immense honour and a significant milestone in my career. This accolade is a testament to the hard work, dedication, and passion I've put into my role as the Financial Director of the Keegor Group of Companies.
This award means a great deal to me for several reasons:
Validation of Efforts: It validates the efforts I've put into my career, not just in terms of overseeing the finances of Keegor Group but also in contributing to the strategic direction and growth of the group of companies. It's a recognition that the work I've done has made a significant impact.
Representation: As a woman in a leadership role within the manufacturing and engineering sector, this recognition helps to break stereotypes and contributes to the visibility of women in industries traditionally dominated by men. It's a reminder that women can excel and be leaders in any field.
Inspiration for Others: I hope that this accolade can serve as an inspiration for other young professionals, particularly women, showing them that dedication, hard work, and a commitment to continuous learning can lead to recognition and success.
Motivation for the Future: This award is not just a recognition of past achievements but also a motivation for the future. It encourages me to continue striving for excellence, to keep learning, and to further contribute to the success of the Keegor Group and the broader business community.
In summary, this accolade is a significant affirmation of my professional journey so far, and it fuels my passion to continue making a positive impact in the business world.
Glamour: Not everyone makes it in business, for different reasons. What would you attribute your success to?
Michelle: My success in business can be attributed to several key factors:
Resilience: The business world is full of challenges and setbacks. My ability to remain resilient in the face of adversity, to learn from my mistakes and to keep pushing forward has been crucial to my success.
Continuous Learning: I believe in the power of continuous learning. I make it a point to stay updated with the latest trends and developments in my field, and I'm always looking for opportunities to expand my knowledge and skills.
Passion: I am deeply passionate about what I do. This passion drives me to put in the necessary work and effort, even when things are tough. It also helps me stay motivated and focused on my goals.
Strong Work Ethic: I am committed to delivering high-quality work and meeting my responsibilities, no matter what. This strong work ethic has helped me earn the trust and respect of my colleagues.
Teamwork: I understand the importance of teamwork in achieving business goals. I've been fortunate to work with talented and dedicated individuals, and our collaborative efforts have led to many successes.
Leadership: As a leader, I strive to inspire and motivate my team, fostering an environment that encourages innovation and growth. I believe in leading by example, and this approach has helped me build strong, productive teams.
Vision: Having a clear vision and setting strategic goals have guided my decisions and actions in business. This vision helps me stay focused and directs my efforts towards achieving long-term success.
In summary, my success in business is a combination of resilience, continuous learning, passion, a strong work ethic, teamwork, leadership, and a crystal clear vision.
Glamour: In your experience, what would you say are the major stumbling blocks for South African female entrepreneurs? How did you overcome them?
Michelle: In my experience, South African female entrepreneurs face several significant challenges:
Access to Funding: Many women entrepreneurs struggle to secure the necessary capital to start or grow their businesses. Traditional lenders often perceive women-owned businesses as high-risk, making it difficult for women to access loans.
Gender Bias: Despite advancements in gender equality, bias and discrimination still exist. Women entrepreneurs often face scepticism and doubt about their abilities and business acumen, which can limit opportunities and growth.
Balancing Business and Personal Life: Many women entrepreneurs juggle multiple roles, including business owner, mother, wife, caregiver, and more. This can lead to stress and burnout if not managed effectively.
Lack of Mentorship and Support Networks: Having a mentor or a supportive network can significantly impact an entrepreneur's success. However, many women entrepreneurs lack access to such resources.
Limited Access to Markets: Women entrepreneurs often face challenges in accessing new markets or opportunities, partly due to a lack of networks, resources, or information.
Overcoming these challenges requires(ed) a multifaceted approach:
Seek Alternative Funding: I explored alternative funding options, such as grants for women-led businesses, crowdfunding, and angel investors who are interested in supporting women entrepreneurs.
Build Confidence and Credibility: I worked hard to build a strong track record and demonstrate my capabilities. This helped me gain the confidence of stakeholders and overcome biases.
Work-Life Balance: I learned to prioritise and delegate tasks and to set boundaries between my work and personal life. Self-care and time management are crucial in this regard.
Find Mentors and Build Networks: I sought out mentors and joined networks of women entrepreneurs. These provided invaluable advice, support, and opportunities.
Market Access: I leveraged digital platforms to reach new markets and customers. I also collaborated with other businesses to expand my reach.
In conclusion, while the challenges are significant, they are not insurmountable. With determination, resilience, and the right strategies, South African female entrepreneurs can overcome these obstacles and achieve success.
Glamour: What does it mean to you to be a woman in business, paving the way for women who would like to follow in your footsteps?
Michelle: Being a woman in business, to me, is about more than just personal success. It's about breaking barriers, challenging stereotypes, and creating opportunities not just for myself, but for other women who aspire to enter the business world. I see myself as part of a larger movement of women who are redefining what it means to be a business leader. We are showing that women can be successful entrepreneurs, executives, and innovators, while also being true to our unique perspectives and experiences.
Paving the way for other women is a responsibility that I take very seriously. I strive to be a role model and mentor, sharing my experiences, insights, and lessons learned. I aim to inspire, elevate and empower other women to pursue their business dreams and to believe in their abilities and potential. Moreover, I believe that as a woman in business, I have a unique opportunity to influence change within the business world itself. I strive to promote diversity, inclusivity, and equality within my own group of companies and the broader business community. I believe that businesses that value and promote diversity are not only more equitable but also more innovative, resilient, and successful.
In conclusion, being a woman in business is a powerful and rewarding role. It's about making a difference, not just in my own life, but in the lives of other women and in the business world as a whole.
Glamour: Who would you like to invite to the conversation with regard to gender equality and inclusivity in business?
Michelle: When it comes to the conversation around gender equality and inclusivity in business, it's crucial to involve a diverse range of voices. I’d like to invite some of the below key stakeholders:
Women Entrepreneurs and Business Leaders: Women who are already in business have first-hand experience of the challenges and opportunities related to gender equality in the business world. Their insights and experiences are invaluable.
Emerging Female Professionals and Entrepreneurs: Young women who are just starting their careers or businesses are the future of the business world. Their perspectives, aspirations, and concerns need to be heard and addressed.
Male Allies: Men who understand the importance of gender equality and are committed to promoting it within their own spheres of influence can be powerful allies. Their support can help to challenge and change the attitudes of other men.
Policy Makers and Regulators: People who have the power to enact and enforce laws and regulations that promote gender equality in business play a crucial role. They need to understand the realities of the business world and the impact of their decisions.
Academics and Researchers: People who study gender issues in business can provide important data and insights, as well as evidence-based recommendations for improving gender equality.
Human Resource Professionals: Those who are involved in hiring, training, and developing company culture are in a unique position to influence gender equality within organisations.
Investors and Financial Institutions: These stakeholders can play a significant role in supporting women-owned and women-led businesses and promoting gender equality by making funding more accessible to women entrepreneurs.
In essence, the conversation about gender equality and inclusivity in business needs to be a broad and inclusive one, involving everyone who has a stake in the business world. Only by working together can we create a business environment that is truly equitable and inclusive.
Glamour: Please expand on your approach to impact?
Michelle: My approach to impact is rooted in the belief that meaningful change comes from a holistic and inclusive approach. I believe that to create a significant impact, we must consider all aspects of a situation or problem and involve all relevant stakeholders in the solution. I put this belief into practice as follows:
Holistic Approach: I believe in addressing issues in their entirety, considering all their facets. For instance, in the context of the #ElevateHER2023 Conference, we're not just focusing on professional development but also on personal, spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical aspects. We understand that these elements are interconnected and that growth in one area can positively influence others.
Inclusive Approach: I believe that everyone has a unique perspective to offer, and that the most effective solutions come from diverse teams. In my role as Gauteng Director of the Women’s Business Club, I strive to ensure that all voices are heard and that our initiatives are inclusive and accessible to all.
Sustainable Impact: I aim for changes that are not just immediate but also long-lasting. This involves creating systems and structures that support ongoing growth and development, and that can adapt to changing circumstances.
Empowerment: I believe in empowering individuals to take charge of their own growth and development. This involves providing them with the tools, resources, and support they need to succeed, but also encouraging them to take initiative and make their own decisions.
Collaboration: I believe that we can achieve more by working together than we can alone. I strive to foster a spirit of collaboration in all my work, whether that's within my team at Keegor Group, among the members of the Women’s Business Club, or with other stakeholders in the business community.
In summary, my approach to impact is about creating positive, sustainable change that benefits everyone involved. It's about seeing the big picture, valuing diversity, and working together towards common goals.
Glamour: What’s your approach to wellness? And how important is it for you to pour into yourself?
Michelle: My approach to wellness is deeply rooted in the concept of holistic health, which considers the complete person - body, mind, spirit, and emotions - in the quest for optimal health and wellness. I believe that if one part of the body is not working properly, all the other parts will be affected. Therefore, in order to achieve optimal wellness, it's crucial to balance all aspects of our lives.
Mental Wellness: I practice mindfulness and stress management techniques to maintain my mental health. This includes activities like meditation, reading, and spending time in nature. I also believe in the power of continuous learning and personal growth.
Emotional Wellness: I believe in the importance of understanding and expressing our feelings in a healthy way. This involves cultivating a positive outlook, developing resilience, and seeking professional help when needed.
Social Wellness: I value my relationships and believe in the importance of building strong connections with others. This includes spending quality time with family and friends, networking with peers, and participating in community activities.
Spiritual Wellness: I find that having a sense of purpose and meaning in life is crucial for overall wellness. This can be achieved through practices like reflection, meditation, prayer, or any activity that gives you a sense of peace and understanding.
Physical Wellness: I believe that our bodies are our vehicles in this life, and we need to maintain them well to perform at our best. But, this is the one I struggle with the most. I’d like to say that I prioritise regular exercise and a balanced diet to keep my body in its best condition but I’m not quite there yet on this one.
Pouring into myself is not just important; it's essential. I believe that you cannot pour from an empty cup. To be able to give my best in all areas of my life - as a business leader, a mentor, and a community member - I first need to ensure that I am taking care of myself. This self-care and self-investment is what enables me to show up as my best self for others.
Glamour: What’s your message for Women’s Month?
Michelle: The idea of women supporting each other is not just a noble concept, but a necessary one. It is a well-documented fact that women who support women are more successful in business. This is because a strong community of women empowers each other, and together, they are stronger. Women communities encourage the sharing of stories and journeys, which help in enhancing and enriching each other.
When women and girls are supported, they gain opportunities to speak up for their rights, and also to advocate for their communities. They are able to rise and create a ripple effect that benefits everyone around them. Empowering a woman with tools and resources provides opportunities to her family and strengthens her whole community.
Moreover, women's empowerment contributes significantly to gender equality. According to UNICEF, educating women and girls can help to fight poverty and disease. Each extra year a girl spends in school can increase her future income by 10-20%. In the context of the #ElevateHER2023 Conference, we aim to create a platform where women can support each other, share their stories, learn from each other, and collectively grow. We believe that the rise of women does not mean the fall of men; it simply means equality. We want to create a world where everyone, regardless of their gender, has equal opportunities and rights.
So, our message for Women’s Month is this: One woman can make a difference, but together we can rock the world! It's time for us women to stand together, support each other, and stand up for all women, not just on Women's Day but every day.
Finally, don't forget to take care of yourself. Your well-being is important, and you deserve to prioritise it. You are your most important asset, and investing in yourself is the best investment you can make.
Happy Women's Month! Let's continue to rise, shine, and elevate each other.
Join like-minded women in business this Women’s Month at the #ElevateHER2023 Conference for a day of networking. The event which will be hosted at the Radisson Blu Hotel & Convention Centre, OR Tambo on the 9th of August, provides women in business across the globe with the opportunity to connect, learn and grow.
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