With more than two decades’ experience in international banking brands, Regional Chief Executive of Standard Bank Pindie Nyandoro, has seen plenty of trends come and go in the banking sector. One that she’ s happy to say is sticking around for the long term is gender empowerment.

“I’m delighted that our Group Chief Executive has made gender empowerment part of his legacy. My own boss, the Africa Regions Chief Executive, Sola David- Borha, is also extremely passionate about gender empowerment. This year, she started a programme called Last Mile, which is designed to make sure that we have more women within the Standard Bank Group leadership positions.”

With such a wide array of barriers to women’s success in business, Nyandoro believes that the biggest obstacle is an attitudinal one. “We need a shift in mindset. Many people say that they support gender empowerment because that is what is topical right now, but their own mindset doesn’t speak to that, and they’re simply paying lip service to this challenging issue. So above all else, what we need to see is a shift in attitudes and mindsets of both men and women.”

A great place to start is at home. “In the home, we need to look at little things like chores: what is the girl child expected to do as opposed to what the boy child is asked to do? It seems small, but this affects attitudes and shapes mindsets and behaviours in our communities. It’s therefore important that we don’t just concentrate on what we do with women or the girl child, we also need to bring in the men because that’s a very important part of what we are trying to do with gender empowerment,” says Nyandoro.

In the same vein, Nyandoro is proud that Standard Bank has chosen to support the United Nations’ HeForShe Initiative. “I think it’s incredibly important that the group is lending its support in terms of finances and time to this initiative. Like the name suggests, HeForShe also incorporates men because men play a pivotal role in ensuring that women take their rightful place in society at large and the workplace specifically. “It’s pleasing to note that the Standard Bank Group in particular recognises that gender empowerment is such an important aspect of the bank’s well-being, because empowering women in the workforce can only have a ripple effect in the societies that they live in,” she says, adding that there is still a long way to go in creating gender equality. “I don’t think attitudes towards women in business have gotten worse during my career, but I really don’t think they have gotten any better either.”

Despite this, Nyandoro is positive about the future. “Although I think we’ve failed to make game-changing strides in terms of gender empowerment, I do think that the groundwork is now set. Those who come after us will definitely take gender empowerment forward and the change will be that much more noticeable. There are strong foundations in place now, so the people to whom we pass the baton are going to find it easier to make huge changes. I think we are going to see big shifts in every industry in the future.”

At this juncture in a very long and difficult game, Nyandoro believes we are in need of some conscious bias: “If you have a woman and a man applying for the same job and you genuinely believe that they can both do the job, I feel that there should be a conscious bias towards the woman. That’s not to exclude men, but at this stage, we need to push for women.” This, she believes, will serve men as well as women further down the road.

“I think that corporates should also put their money where their mouth is. If you look at the education sector, we’re still producing more male graduates than female graduates, and part of the problem is the issue of finances. Whether we like it or not, in a lot of societies, people still think that the boy child should be educated before the girl and that’ s where the efforts, inclusive of funding, should go. I think we need to come up with things like scholarships that are specifically tailor-made for women as a way of fast-tracking the pace of change in schools. Hopefully then we will be able to produce more female graduates than men.

“At Standard Bank, when we talk about bringing women on to boards, we’re still saying, ‘In three to five years’ time, we want to have 20% or 30% women on the board.’ This speaks to how far behind we are as a society and shows just how much more we still need do to find ways to quicken the pace of change,” she adds.

When asked about her career milestones, Nyandoro says that every position she’s held has been a blessing – even when that blessing was initially in disguise. She’s also proud of having been the first woman at the helm of the Bankers Association of Zimbabwe.

“I was the only woman in the association and the president for four years. It was fascinating to see how the men wanted to treat me; more like someone who was not their equal. I must say, if there was one thing I enjoyed, it was challenging those men. It was fascinating to watch their attitudes toward me.”

Her biggest highlight, though, has been the friends she’ s made along the way. “I think the most important thing we take from these jobs, which maybe most of us take for granted, are the friendships we form over the years.

“There are many people who I’ve met over the years working for Standard Bank, Standard Chartered and Unilever who are now part of my extended family. It hasn’t been about the position, or being named businesswoman of the year, or any other accolade – it’s about the human factor . Who you meet, whom you make friends with, and whom you can call on. We spend eight hours each day with our colleagues, so these relationships become extremely important. Which is why I would say that the biggest highlight of my career is the people I’ve met along the way and the relationships I’ve formed.”

PERSONAL INSIGHTS

Nyandoro is the Regional Chief Executive of Standard Bank and currently sits on the Boards of Standard Bank Eswatini, Stanbic Bank Zambia, Stanbic Bank Botswana, Standard Lesotho Bank, Standard Bank Namibia and Stanbic Bank Zimbabwe. She was also the first woman to hold the post of President at the Bankers Association of Zimbabwe. If she had an extra hour in her day, Nyandoro says that she would spend that time mindfully. “I want to learn how to relax. Whether it’s through meditation or yoga, or anything else. I just want to figure out what the best way is for me to have quiet time to reflect on things – to put in an extra hour that doesn’t have anything to do with anybody else except me.”

“ WOMEN WHO SEEK TO BE EQUAL WITH MEN LACK AMBITION”

MARILYN MONROE

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