Investment savvy

13 June 2006

The World Economic Forum ranks the South African banking system sixth in the world for sophistication. But even its world-class tag (thanks to a strong regulatory environment) doesn't diminish the glass ceiling that still frustrates women in the sector, says UCT final-year finance and economics undergraduate Ayanda Mavudla.

An "unjustifiably small" proportion of women hold leadership positions in the South African business arena, Mavudla said.

This has been the impetus for the UCT Investment Society's Young Women in Finance Conference 2006, which will be held from June 25 to 29. Sponsored by Investec, it will gather 60 of the country's top commerce students at the company's Johannesburg headquarters. All women, of course. And all potential leaders.

The plan is to build skills, provide networking opportunities and bridge the gap between the lecture room and workplace. The conference is the brainchild of UCT students Mzamo Mjekevu and Thulasizwe Buthelezi.

"While we've seen many positive strides towards the emancipation of women, much groundwork still needs to be laid for the achievement of true gender equality," Mavudla said.

Mindful of this, the industry has begun to address equity concerns by introducing the banking charter (similar to the mining charter) to stimulate empowerment in this sector.

Among their aims will be strategies to fast-track women in the financial services sector, harnessing black economic empowerment processes and build role models.

The conference will host top-level guest speakers and case studies. Their gala evening will coincide with the opening of the country's Top 50 Women in Commerce conference.

"South Africa is a great place for young women right now and there's no reason not to do well if you are aware of your capabilities and establish a good work ethos. We need women to add to job creation and socio-economic development."

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