While women predominate in workplaces throughout South Africa; their representation on boards of directors and in senior management positions, is generally low – too low to be considered acceptable under gender equality recommendations.

Tsogo Sun Gaming’s flagship entertainment destination, Montecasino, is taking the status quo seriously and is setting out to empower the women in its organisation to be able to take on responsibilities at board and upper management level. At the helm of this initiative is Wanda Moraka, Human Resources Development Practitioner at Montecasino.

Moraka’s personal motto is to empower people to have better career opportunities. And right now, the people she is striving to empower to improve their careers are the women of Montecasino. “50% of our employees are women, but few are represented in management level. We have a management team of 172. Women constitute 40% of the total, but women of colour make up only 19%. The supervisory level consists of 261 employees, of which 39% are women, and 34% are women of colour. It’s our objective to align women empowerment with our strategic goals.”

She adds that historically, the business has been run in a male dominated way of interacting. It has been technically driven, with emphasis on processes and procedures. “But it is evolving. There is a recognition that we cannot continue to use punitive measures to deal with issues. We are enhancing the softer side of business; the qualities that women contribute to business. Women tend to be more people-centred, intuitive, and family and individual-oriented than their male counterparts; who can be more rational, analytical, technologically-minded, competitive and group-oriented than women.”

Moraka’s strategy is to start working with managers, empowering them to find their own strengths as women in business and learn how to use them, and also to encourage them to coach and mentor junior women in their teams. “We aim to create a community of women who support each other in achieving business goals.”

It’s early days yet – the programme was introduced towards the end of 2011 and has a 10-year goal to see strong improvement in the equity numbers – but Moraka is extremely encouraged by the enthusiasm and commitment that has already been demonstrated by the participants.

The women-focused equity programme was launched at Montecasino late last year. This was held for women in management positions and was attended by about 60 women.. The day’s events included presentations by dynamic women leaders in their respective fields, including performer PJ Powers; Deidre Jameson, Montecasino Property Manager; Phemelo Ngcobo, actress and businesswoman; Annette Kinear, author and motivator. Moraka says that the input and response at the seminar was “incredible” and saw women ready to embrace new challenges to help to change the status quo.

Moraka says that while the goals have been set, the route to achieving those goals is not set in stone and will take into account how the programme is progressing year by year. The initial focus will be on empowering managers, followed by supervisors in a programme that is being managed by Moraka and an all-women steering committee.

The programme for 2012 is divided into quarters, with a different topic on the overarching subject of leadership presented each quarter, together with opportunities for the participating women to interact and share their own knowledge and experiences. The aim is to build a culture of coaching and mentoring and to have each manager coaching and mentoring at least one junior member on their team by the end of the year. “We’re encouraging an environment of co-creating between the women staff in higher level and lower level positions, rather than just delegating,” adds Moraka.

Apart from monthly seminars, the women will also meet at ‘Coffee Connect’ sessions, informal and interactive two-hour discussion sessions over a cup of coffee where the topics presented will be discussed, questions asked and answered, advice given, and encouragement shared.

The first quarter will deal with self-leadership and will tackle topics such as career and development, coaching and mentoring, work and life balance, time management, how to be a woman and command respect, how to own the boardroom, and more.

“Many of our women managers have shared that they are not comfortable with coaching and mentoring for different reasons, including that they are not sure how to go about it. We believe that the managers will reach the point where they feel empowered to coach their juniors in the first quarter of the programme,” says Moraka.

The second quarter will deal with thought leadership, covering topics such as innovation, strategy, how to think things through differently, problem-solving, and how to be visionaries. The aim is to change management habits from reactionary management and going with the flow, to proactive and visionary management. The third quarter will deal with people leadership and will include topics such as emotional intelligence, how to lead people by sharing experiences and telling stories – which women tend to be good at, states Moraka – and customer service. The fourth quarter will handle results and change leadership which will cover topics such as initiating and adapting to change and measuring results.

The programme also includes a facility called Get Abstract, which entails online management books summarised to four pages, which the women are encouraged to download and read for additional fast-track learning.

Moraka believes that this programme will grow organically as it progresses, inspiring women to be better leaders and to activate the intelligence prevalent within their teams. “I am definitely seeing a new excitement among our women staff members and a new level of honesty about what’s happening on their teams; there’s a move away from blaming others for their situations and a strong and growing belief in the ability to be empowered to fulfil their own potential and to help others achieve theirs.”

Moraka matriculated at Hudson Park High School in East London in 1996 and completed an HR management diploma at Damelin followed by a Public Relations Certificate. In 2007 she did a Master Facilitator course and an Assessors course through Assessment College. She has also completed a Wits Business School Management Advancement Programme post-graduation Certificate and a Wits Business School Talent Management Workshop.

She joined Montecasino in 2008, where her responsibilities include setting up and running the Tsogo Academy Montecasino which is responsible for training, development, and learning initiatives for the staff of Montecasino; business partnering with all departments to support the company’s strategic goals through learning and development; liaising with departmental technical trainers to ensure alignment within the organisation’s objectives; selecting and partnering with appropriate service providers and learning institutions for design and delivery of learning interventions; dealing with the Theta Seta; measuring the effectiveness of training interventions in terms of return on investment; and more.

Moraka is deeply passionate about working with people to encourage personal growth and the growth of others around them. “It’s up to us to ensure that Montecasino’s equal employment opportunities philosophy, which is entrenched into our strategy, plays out in the lives of women within our employ,” she states.

According to Henry Ford, “Enthusiasm is the yeast that makes your hopes shine to the stars. Enthusiasm is the sparkle in your eyes, the swing in your gait. The grip of your hand, the irresistible surge of will and energy to execute your ideas.” He might have been talking about Wanda Moraka, whose enthusiasm is palpable and inspiring and will no doubt drive this programme and others to unprecedented levels of success.

Source: Tsogo Sun Gaming