Naspers breaks its century-long tradition by appointing its first black and female CEO

Global internet group and one of the largest technology investors in the world, Naspers has finally broken its over 100 years tradition since its creation by appointing its first woman, and first black person to become the CEO. The appointment of Phuti Mahanyele-Dabengwa who joins the management team as CEO of South Africa was made known by the company. 

“Phuthi is a seasoned leader with a strong track record of achievement throughout her career. Her significant investor and board experience across varied sectors, makes Phuthi the perfect match for this important role at Naspers,” said Bob van Dijk, Group CEO, Naspers.

Prior to her appointment, she was the Executive Chairman of  Sigma Capital. She has worked with Fieldstone Private Capital Group, Inc., Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA), Shanduka Group, The Agency and Irvin & Johnson. At these organizations, she held the positions of Vice President, Manager, CEO, Account Manager, and Manager respectively. She has held several board positions at different companies which includes Vodacom Group Ltd., Gold Fields Ltd. and Comair Ltd. She is also currently on the board of the Cyril Ramaphosa Foundation.

Mahanyele-Dabengwa was the ForbesWoman Africa 2014, Business Woman Southern African winners of 2014 All Africa Business Leaders Awards (AABLAs). She was named one of the “20 Youngest Power Women In Africa” in 2011 by Forbes, “Top 50 women in the world to watch in 2008” by The Wall Street Journal and in 2007, she was selected by the World Economic Forum as a Global Young Leader.

The South African corporate powerhouse joins Mpumi Madisa, CEO-designate of Bidvest Group Ltd., as one of the few women leaders in South Africa’s private sector.

According to Bain & Company, in 2017, 31 percent of South African companies have no female representation in senior leadership roles. The latest Businesswomen’s Association of South Africa (BWASA) census on women in leadership indicated that 22 percent of board directors are women, but only 7 percent are executive directors. Furthermore, only 10 percent of South African CEOs are women and looking solely at companies listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE), that this number drops to 2.2 percent according to the BWASA census. Overall, the percentage of women in senior leadership roles has been relatively flat, with representation increasing slightly from 26 percent in 2004 to 28 percent in 2017.

South Africa is on par with the rest of the African continent, where 29 percent of senior leadership roles are held by women, and performs better than some developed countries, such as the UK (19 percent) and Australia (23 percent). However, the percentage of CEOs who are women in South Africa (10 percent) is lower than the global average of 12 percent. Representation matters, as studies suggest that for minorities to have their voices heard as an influential body and not as a token, this figure needs to be 30 percent or higher.