On 9 August 1956, twenty thousand women marched to Pretoria to protest against the Urban Areas Act. Proof that women in South Africa will always stand together and support each other, the 9th of August has been celebrated as a public holiday since.
With the whole month of August recognised as Women’s Month, we chatted to the women behind the wheels at Thompsons Travel to talk women in business and what Women’s Day really means to them.
What are your thoughts on women in leadership roles in South Africa’s tourism sector?
Mary Shilleto, CEO: Travel is run by many men but supported by very many capable and wonderful woman, and I am delighted to see that we have young woman in positions of leadership in both the aviation and travel space who are making significant changes in our industry.
Priti Ramkissoon, COO: It’s wonderful to see that we are a growing gender, taking opportunities by the horns and excelling in them. I am surrounded by these types of women at Thompsons Travel. It’s a powerful and very inspirational message to see.
Shelley, Durban Retail Manager: Tourism is an ever-changing and exciting sector, and many women have the opportunity to showcase their leadership and skills.
Sharon Leong, National Sales Manager: I have worked alongside many great leaders over the years, women who have achieved recognition for their outstanding contributions to the travel sector. Their strength lies in their ability to reinvent themselves and embrace the evolving challenges, and face them fearlessly.
Any advice for young women starting out in the business world?
Chantal Kliche, Retail Manager – Cape Region: Embrace change, persevere with passion, be mindful of your goals and bucket list, and enjoy the experiences with the people around you.
Shelley: Network as much as you can, and develop key and lasting relationships. If you take on a leadership role, invest in your people as they are your business!
Patricia Kinnear, HR Manager: When it comes to managing the workloads of today, data, demands, and deadlines come at you all at once. To-do lists are essential. Write everything down and then prioritise wisely.
Sharon: Work hard, have integrity and stay true to yourself.
How important is mentorship?
Mary: We need to support each other as women in the workplace as it is very much a balancing act when you work hard, are committed to bringing up a family, trying to maintain a balanced lifestyle while remaining healthy, having two minutes of me-time and running a home.
Priti: I have been mentored by strong women throughout my life and career, my mom, my sisters and the ladies that I have worked with in the last 14 years. I am indebted to their continuous encouragement and motivation.
What are the key ingredients for success?
Mary: It has taken perseverance, courage to take on tasks that terrified me and knowing that with good mentorship that I have had over the years that one is able to tackle anything that you love doing and that you are passionate about!
Shelley: I think it comes down to loving what you do – your clients and team can feel it. It’s infectious and makes the world of difference!
Chantal: Passion, perseverance and teamwork!
Patricia: Be clear on what you need to know to achieve your goals. Work smart, with discipline and always provide exceptional customer service.
What does Women’s Day mean to you?
Priti: It’s a day to give recognition to the strong, hardworking, dedicated women out there, those who have fought for us, struggled for us, given birth to us, gone through illnesses and ailments and still never gave up.
Chantal: Women’s Day is about working together and proudly acknowledging how we have made a positive impact on our families, communities, businesses, our country and globally.
Shelley: I think Women’s Day is an excellent way for women to showcase how we have progressed over time and to acknowledge those that have made a massive difference to society and business.
Sharon: I feel extremely proud of the fact that we have a public holiday to recognise and celebrate being mothers, wives, aunts, sisters and successful business women.