‘Gender Parity Will Come Sooner’

Karen Mwendera
Published 4 years ago

The Managing Director of the ABN Group, Roberta Naicker, wins the Top Businesswoman of the Year Award at the 2018 Standard Bank Top Women Awards.

For over 11 years, the ABN Group, home to the FORBES AFRICA and CNBC Africa brands, has diligently told the African growth story and shared the perspectives of the titans of industry.

For over a decade now, Durban-born Roberta Naicker has been an intrinsic part of the company’s journey, and as its Managing Director, is today a success story herself.

In August, which is regarded as Women’s Month in South Africa, Naicker won the Top Businesswoman of the Year Award at the 2018 Standard Bank Top Women Awards.

The function, at the Emperors Palace in Johannesburg, drew over 650 guests from corporate companies, government departments and the entrepreneurial sphere.

Roberta Naicker. Photo provided.


The awards were to recognize outstanding leadership in individuals and organizations that have stepped up and shaped the role of women within the private and public sectors.

“It was not an easy task, but with a dedicated group of men and women, we’ve been able to position Africa as the continent of tomorrow,” said an elated Naicker about the ABN Group as she received her award in a room filled with the prominent and the powerful.

In March 2008, Naicker was hired as the head of finance of the group, and had to find her feet in the media industry.

She currently serves as a board member, is the Chair and Managing Director of ABN Productions, ABN Pictures and the ABN Training Institute, Chair of the ABN Education Trust, and Chair of ABN Nigeria and Kenya.

She speaks to FORBES WOMAN AFRICA about winning and why she believes gender parity will be achieved faster with the 4th Industrial Revolution.

How does it feel winning?
I was genuinely surprised and grateful to be awarded Businesswoman of the Year. This award is as much an award to me, as it is an award to ABN for recognizing potential and helping it grow. My journey with ABN has been a cherished adventure which started in 2008. I have held the position as MD since 2011. This award is a special milestone for me personally and professionally. It is a testimony to the guidance of the Board, the support of the management and the hard work of every single member of the staff.

What do you attribute your success to?
Success is not a one-person game, it is team work. It is all the people who stand behind me – the staff, the management, the executive team, the Board and the shareholders. My success and growth is attributable to being able to work with so many wonderful people and being able to bring the best out of them. Our Vice-Chairman, Rakesh Wahi’s trust and faith in my leadership, and steadfast support has been very crucial in defining my career.

What has changed in the media landscape in the last decade since you joined?
A decade is a long time and a lot has changed. The media landscape has evolved so rapidly. We stand in the middle of the 4th Industrial Revolution, one in which technology impacts everything we do and is evolving at such a rapid pace. The media industry is one of the most impacted industries. The digital revolution has drastically changed how the world consumes media especially news media, and at this time it is important to be one step ahead!

You came in taking up a position in an industry new to you, what advice would you have given yourself at that time?
My advice has always been [to] take one day at a time, and give your 100% for that day. It has worked so well for me because each day brings new highs, new challenges and new opportunities and it brings me great satisfaction to give each of these my 100% best.

READ MORE: Celebrating Five Years With The Founder & Publisher: Rakesh Wahi

What are you looking forward to?
Over the past 11 years of operation in Africa, we are proud to have created employment opportunities, promoted the development of women within the organization and a niche for financial journalism on the continent. The group still aims to their spread our wings across the continent, a goal which keeps me up at night and brings me back to work in the morning with enthusiasm and energy.

How would you describe your leadership style?
My leadership style has also grown with the company. I have been able to lead the organization through its journey across the African continent and watch us become Africa’s largest business news aggregator. I don’t believe leadership style can fit into one box but the term I guess which suits this journey the most is ‘transformative’.

Will there be a time when gender will not be a topic in the workplace?
Women represent the largest disruptive force in business. We are currently the largest unserved market in business. Sheryl Sandberg has beautifully put the answer to this question – it lies in more women in more positions of power. Empowered women empower other women. While this is not something that will happen overnight, I believe we are on the right path, and I believe that this journey will arrive at its destination.

We are leapfrogging in tech and the 4th Industrial Revolution, but when do you think we will achieve gender parity?
It is because of the 4th Industrial Revolution that I believe gender parity will be achieved faster. The internet has changed the way we consume news; every consumer is also a contributor. The internet has brought people from all over the world together. With a click of a button, we can connect to women across ages, cultures and countries. It can be an amazing tool for empowerment and it can be used to create momentum to women’s issues. Women always had a voice, now we have a platform where we can use it and be heard.

What are some of the views you have on the gender pay gap existing in Africa? With so many women in the media profession, how do you advise this must change?
Based on statistics released in 2015, women collectively represent the second-largest economy in the world. Yet it is a widely-known fact that women are paid 25% to 40% less than men globally. Women are the single-largest productive economic force, and drive almost every economic indicator for businesses. This gap will close only if there are more women in power, empowering other women. As mentioned earlier, this is not an overnight phenomena, but a journey. One which has gathered more momentum, and one which will surely get us to a better world with more empowered women only if we keep at the journey.