“My Most Important Task Is To Empower All The Women” – Thandi Allin Dyani

You know that feeling when life and work surprise you in fantastic ways? That is how I have felt for the last year and a half after I first moved to Johannesburg and started working at Impact Hub Johannesburg.

impact hub | Thandi Allin Dyani

First published on Social Enterprise Academy

My tasks were pretty clear: team lead, financial, programmatic and strategic support and oversight. Tasks any leader would have to take on to steer an organisation forward. Little did I know that my most important task would be to empower all of the women in my sphere of influence. Little did I know that my focus on women empowerment would grow from being a peripheral desire to become intentional

Gender equality
I strongly believe that attaining gender equality is the most important thing we can do to achieve the rest of the Sustainable Development Goals and thrive as a society. Likewise, any social innovation requires input from all genders for it to be sustainable. While conventional businesses or startups are globally dominated by men, in social entrepreneurship it’s almost the opposite. In my experience, social entrepreneurship attracts more female founders and co-founders. We see this every day when working and leading the efforts of Impact Hub Joburg with social entrepreneurs and social enterprises.

impact hub | Thandi Allin Dyani

Female leaders seem to have a more holistic way of looking at the world when running a business. The female ethos is also very much about problem-solving, relationship building and empathy. This strongly resembles the essence of a social enterprise with its triple bottom line approach (profit, people, and the planet). Social enterprises solve challenges while creating revenue using hybrid business models. The grant and cause-based NGO paired with the revenue-based startup merge into a very human-centred organism that creates a business out of what the world needs and the challenges that we face. This is very encouraging!

However, one of the most critical aspects of becoming a leader in business or society is social access, especially for women. South Africa is extremely low on social mobility and it can be hard to gain access to crucial networks and opportunities. At the same time, women have a harder time to get mentorship opportunities as men tend to choose other men to mentor. Social capital and business opportunities that come with mentorship are a simple way of changing that.

Resilience for women through mentorship
At Impact Hub Joburg we wanted to create equal opportunities for women to flourish and succeed, so we developed a mentorship programme for women in leadership. Through the Growing Women mentorship program, mentored women mentor other women and they, in turn, get an opportunity to also mentor other women. This way we allow mentorship to have a trickle-down effect. After all, is this not how we start changing the world? This is the same concept with our Equality Lounge—a fantastic platform we launched in collaboration with SAP NextGen, UN Women and the Female Quotient.

Impact Hub Johannesburg Equality Lounge

Even after we pivoted our programmes to virtual editions, we noticed that role models and peer conversations are needed even more during these unprecedented times. In response, we launched our new Virtual Resilience Program—a three month personal and business resilience programme for early growth stage women-led social enterprises. We have implemented these different initiatives to empower, educate, create access and dialogue with homegrown role models for women in the impact and social change space. These initiatives are needed even more as Covid-19 has set back the gender equality fight quite a bit.

impact hub | Thandi Allin Dyani

Why is it important to empower women?
Because 50% of the world’s population is lagging on health, education and roles in decision making, among other things. This creates a negative impact on everything that we try to achieve as the collective entity called the human race. I believe that we can and should change this. One does not have to be in a position of power to change a women’s life and possibilities. We need to stop perpetuating structures that keep women down by acknowledging them and working to break them. What small steps can you take in your own life to promote gender equality? What does this look like? It starts with yourself and the person next to you, that woman you see every day. Whether it’s a sister, mother, coworker or your boss. Allow them to take up space and shine, share their dreams and goals. Do your part in making them come true. I was also given this amazing chance to bring together these amazing initiatives at Impact Hub Joburg; now let’s spread inclusiveness and keep building these strong networks to empower women.

impact hub | Thandi Allin Dyani

Thandi Allin Dyani is the CEO of Impact Hub Johannesburg, which is part of a global network of people, places and programs that inspire, connect and catalyse social impact. Half Danish and half South African, Thandi grew up in two very distinct societies. For the past 15 years, she has dedicated her life to addressing development issues, social entrepreneurship and ecosystem building in Denmark and Sub- Saharan Africa. Before joining Impact Hub Joburg, she worked in the impact start-up, social entrepreneurship and global development space.

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