Earlier this year, an opinion piece written by a discontented investment professional made waves in local media highlighting a key pressure point for business – the plight of black professionals in Cape Town. This was the topic explored at our recent Thought Leaders engagement where we heard from Nene Molefi, esteemed author and business, diversity and transformation expert as well as Ayanda Mfusi, Black Management Forum Western Cape, Deputy Chairperson.

As Nene opened the session it was disheartening to hear that in 1998, she left her employment in Cape Town due to some of the same challenges that many black professionals are still facing today – 20 years later. Referencing the latest World Population Review statistics for South Africa, Nene raised an interesting point saying that while one may fall into the populations’ majority, you can still feel like a minority socially. Citing lack of social integration and access to networks as contributing factors to this phenomenon, Nene highlighted that these are important distinctions to consider and that we should always seek to be aware of the realities being experienced within minority groupings.

Speaking to behavioural change and circling back to her point around the lack of transformation in Cape Town over the past 20 years, Nene noted that something is missing, or rather, not happening to bring about the transformation corporate Cape Town so desperately needs. She said that if for long periods of time change has not occurred, frustration is bound to set in. Nene believes that a combination of understanding and belief in the cause, along with the capability and genuine willingness to embark on new behavior, is the key to behavioural change.

With respect to the complexity of change, Nene emphasized that inclusion is a feeling and an experience. She went on to say that these feelings and experiences are often the difficulty with issues surrounding culture and inclusion because it is imprecise and hard to measure or prove. She urged us to engage and listen to one another and said that we should check our feelings and ask ourselves what we can do to ensure that we are truly included. Nene concluded by saying that the journey of diversity and inclusion is hard work, but it is your work, my work and ultimately, our work to create an inclusive culture and city.

We then heard from Ayanda Mfusi who shared with us the Black Management Forum’s perspective on the issue. The BMF is a thought leadership organisation with the main purpose of influencing socio-economic transformation in South Africa in pursuit of socio-economic justice, fairness and equity. The organisation stands for the development and empowerment of managerial leadership primarily amongst black people within organisations, and the creation of managerial structures and processes which reflect the demographics and values of the wider society.

Ayanda shared some insightful statistics with us saying that in the private sector, 72% of senior managerial positions are occupied by white South African’s and in the public sector 73% of senior managerial positions are occupied by black South African’s. How did the public sector get it right and what is the lag in the private sector? 24 years into democracy, Ayanda said the pace of transformation in top management in South Africa remains slow.

The session ended with a lively Q&A session and we would once again like to thank Old Mutual for sponsoring this engagement.