We interview Shirley Machaba CEO PwC Southern Africa
As the first black woman to be appointed CEO of PwC Southern Africa, what message do you have for aspiring young women?
Our destiny is in our hands, if we don’t decide someone will decide for us. Success has no address, no colour, no gender. The solution is within us. Keep pursuing your dreams until you achieve them. Run your career like a business, have a strategy articulating where you are, where you want to be and how to get there. Surround yourself with mentors who will help you achieve your strategy. You will fall along the way however when you fall, stand up, dust yourself and keep walking. Keep telling yourself that “the sky is not the limit, the universe is the limit”
You are a qualified Chartered Accountant. What were some of the challenges you overcame to be where you are today?
Like any other black female professional, my road was not an easy one. I had the highs and lows. Unconscious bias from both men and women has been a top challenge. My recipe was to know what I want and remain focused, consistent, confident, principled, authentic, perfect what I do and never give up in what I do including good work ethics. Emotional intelligence has also been one of my strong attributes. I always raised my hand for new opportunities and put more effort to it for me to succeed.
What have been some of the most memorable highlights of your journey?
I had a number of memorable highlights and the following are some of the most memorable ones during my journey:
2005 Admitted as partner
2006 Elected on the PwC SA board as chairman in 2012 after serving as board
member since 2006
2014 Appointed the first female industry leader
2015 Elected the first black female PwC global board member representing
2018 Appointed Africa Diversity and Inclusion leader in 2018 and Africa exco member
2019 Appointed the first female CEO for PwC Southern Africa
The role of leadership has changed over the years. How would you describe the current requirements of leadership today?
Indeed the role of leadership has evolved. It’s no longer business as usual, it is about the “new normal” The following are the current characteristics of today’s leadership:
Authentic and selfless. Regular communication, accountability, integrity, great listener, decisive, empathetic, firm, consistent, inclusive, strategic thinker, visionary, humility, purpose- driven, influence, courageous, passionate, service-driven, inspirational, confident, delegation skills, adaptable and flexible.
How do you intend ensuring PwC continues to live its purpose?
PwC is a purpose-led and values-driven organisation. Our culture is embedded in our purpose and values. It is about the “tone at the top” – ensuring that I involve my executives in strategic matters and receive the buy in from my executives regarding living our purpose and values. Our strategy is based on our purpose and our values, and as executives we communicate consistent messages regularly to our staff regarding our strategy as well as our expectations. We developed performance management metric that are aligned to our purpose, values and strategy. All teams are held accountable to these performance metrics.
What changes have you noticed in your industry over the last 10 years?
A lot has changed. Technological advancement has changed, how we engage with clients, how we deliver our services and how we interact with our colleagues. Risk management has been elevated to a higher level due to the attack in the profession. Quality is the priority in all we do. The profile of our professionals is more diverse in terms of gender, race and age.
What steps do you think need to be taken to help the country’s economy recover from the pandemic?
The pandemic has had a negative impact on everyone, be it big business, small business, civil society and government. I do commend SA for the comprehensive measures enacted to deal with the pandemic – including closing borders, travel bans, isolation, imposing health restrictions for the well being of people, lockdown, the gradual return to work and opening up certain sectors of the economy.
All businesses within all sectors must be allowed to operate irrespective of size to open up the economy. All businesses must conduct risk assessments and develop plans to comply with set regulations. Government needs to have the capacity to monitor compliance with set regulations. There must be a heavy penalty for any contravention with regulations. Working remotely should be encouraged wherever and whenever practical and possible as it is helpful in dealing with traffic congestion.
If you had an extra hour in every day, how would you spend it?
I would spend an extra hour mentoring and coaching young and aspiring leaders for them to be confident enough to take on leadership roles whenever there is an opportunity. At the same time I will be building a strong pipeline of talent which is a challenge currently.
What message would you like to send to entrepreneurs out there struggling to survive during COVID-19?
COVID-19 has hit all of us hard. There is no manual on how to deal with it, or one-size-fits- all solution. It’s about learning new ways of doing business on a daily basis. While current times are challenging, there are however opportunities that business needs to collectively embrace. Government has announced various stimulus packages. Entrepreneurs need to remain positive and patient, they need to go through the application process, painful as it is, due to the paperwork required. They need to start innovating and diversifying their business e.g. manufacturing PPEs- there are lots of opportunities in this area; attending webinars on leadership through times of crisis to keep empowering themselves and learning from others. This is the opportune time to build resilience, to become closer to clients by listening to and supporting them during this crisis, to continue networking digitally, reading up on businesses globally, taking up speaking opportunities virtually and writing articles relevant to the current situation.