March 30th, 2010
02:14 PM GMT
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That is the theme I wanted to explore with two of South Africa’s most prominent businesswomen – Cheryl Carolus and Wendy Lucas-Bull – who run a mega-deal investment company called Peotona.

Cheryl was a prominent anti-apartheid activist and then part of the team that helped Nelson Mandela and his party win the first democratic elections. She’s acted as the South African ambassador to London and head of South African Tourism. She’s now left the public sector and is running Peotona  with three other women – one of whom is Wendy Lucas-Bull.

Lucas-Bull was the first woman to run a major South African banking group. Her successful turnaround of that company is now taught in business schools. She’s also familiar to many South Africans as one of the business gurus on the television show ‘The Apprentice.’

Over a cup of coffee at their Johannesburg headquarters, I was interested in finding out if they thought women did business differently to men.

Both of them said, "Absolutely!"

Cheryl stressed that women leaders were not necessarily ‘softer’ and it wasn’t just about ‘girly business.’

Wendy agreed with her business partner that women executives do business in different ways – she said women tended to be more ‘inclusive’ and by that she says women create a workplace that’s condusive to women, as well as men. She also said women created a more ‘sustainable environment’ in that they  build businesses ‘that also look after some of the things outside of the business on which the business benefits.’

What exactly does that mean?

Both women used the example of how they run their company, which emphasizes community benefits for the mining companies (De Beers, French-owned Lefarge and Reunert) they have invested in. They tell me that they have set up trusts which benefit those communities who live next to the mines.

Their model is best explained, they say, with Reunert, a listed company and a leading player in the South African economy. They have set up a Reunert College which is a bridging year that helps pupils from the surrounding areas to get into technical colleges and universities. With their contacts in the business world they have also managed to get more sponsorship for this school and have tripled the number of students, they say.

Now all this sounds worthy and "nice and fuzzy," I say to them, but do they make any money?

They reply that they have some "incredible blue chip companies under our belt" and "we are investors in some of the biggest players in South Africa."

 That doesn’t sound like "girly business" does it?

soundoff (21 Responses)
  1. charity


    April 5, 2010 at 10:51 am |
  2. Chip

    I really enjoyed watching this programme and it was my first time. i found it enlightening and very inspiring. Made me believe that women can achieve in things that matter and the glass ceiling can be cracked.

    Thank you

    April 6, 2010 at 12:32 am |
  3. Montgomery

    What were your parents like?

    April 6, 2010 at 10:25 pm |
  4. Festivity

    I have a verygood parents,they are carring,they don't play with us in times of education.

    April 7, 2010 at 11:29 pm |
  5. Ellie

    I do like this article and it is most interesting. It is always great to be a politician and then go into business. It is great when you are part of the ANC as well as your business gets funded it has to be the best business club in SADC. Now that is my oponion. Journalists give us a bid picture look of business maybe you should do some articles on my suggestion the move from Government to Business in Africa that would be an interesting series to follow.

    April 8, 2010 at 9:47 am |
  6. cheryl is a sell-out!!

    I see its still nice to profit out of the Struggle,...isn't it Cheryl??
    While the very community u come from is still sufferring with rampant unemployment, crime & hunger....

    You pitch up for a few hours to give some pre-written speach....then jump on a plane back to the VERY white neighbourhoods you used to despise!!??

    U disgust me!

    April 9, 2010 at 10:02 am |
  7. Geoffrey Mwenemisisiro

    Indeed the two ladies have proved that Women executives do business differently. The story should not end here. Can they coach the upcoming women leaders to emulate such good examples with discussions on how " they made it" such that a few can borrow practical skills for success.

    Well done Women!

    April 17, 2010 at 5:14 pm |
  8. Nicole

    Hey, u no what... I think women are smarter, but men are stronger...

    April 18, 2010 at 11:11 pm |
  9. Kingsley

    As a young graduate of accounting, please, i need your advise on what to do; whether to start up a business or search for a government job. Please reply via my email address: Thanks n God bless you more n more.

    April 19, 2010 at 6:52 am |
  10. pakizeh

    my regard to my young friendsand all of acqaintances

    I hope that all of you successfull in life so inbusiness

    I wnant from God to be day that all of young will employment

    durig for friend that search jop if you had money could will capitalize
    in business special in ex port and impot of cours whit help your parents thanks

    int,r transportaition giti jadeh &daryatrabar

    April 19, 2010 at 10:30 am |
  11. Peter

    You ladies are doing a geat job in assisting the underpriviledged and creating opportunity for many.
    Your returns are put to good use for many! Don't let the uninformed idiots, who are jealous of your venture, put you down. I have a family member who achieved what you did by providing for those who you are now providing for.
    God Bless and keep up the good work.

    April 19, 2010 at 7:23 pm |
  12. edward

    With the increasing mobility of skilled workers in the global village, the old style top down authoritarian style of management is no longer appropriate for retaining good people. Women with their more inclusive team (read 'family') based approach are therefore better leaders in a 'connection based' economy. Their broader vision with respect to the society and structures that surround the business, as articulated in the article, is also more appropriate in an increasingly 'aware' world where the tenets of 'pure' capitalism, namely 'profit at any price' are not acceptable to a growing sector of the populace. Women should not try to emulate men in their managerial and leadership style. What we don't need is more 'guys in skirts' – rather we need women to make use of the unique skills and attributes that they have to lead this world, in both the social and business domains, into a new and better way of functioning.

    April 20, 2010 at 10:50 pm |
  13. evelyn

    Well done ladies.If you could put all your business experiences in form of a book,it could go along way in imparting useful skill to the would-be businessmen and women.

    April 21, 2010 at 7:15 am |
  14. Ade

    Woman has what it take to lead well

    April 27, 2010 at 10:21 am |
  15. April Coornell

    As a woman business owner and life long entrepreneur, with my own factory in India, I do think women do business differently. I agree that we are more inclusive- in the work place and outside of it- we talk more too. Send more emails and discuss and ferret out solutions through conversation.
    My business is a 'girly business' – artistic apparel and beautiful product for the home. So, not only is it a female run business, it is an essentially creative business. Double whammy right?
    I see the opportunities in the spaces where others are not, and understanding real value- in the workplace, in the community, in the product we produce and in the way we impact our customer's life too.
    Do we believe in making money?- yes- it makes everything else possible.
    At the core of my business philosphy is making a difference in this world, in my time, through my work. I always think – if not me – who will do this? Business makes this possible. We are involved in The Giving World Founation, funding street schools and schools for first generation learners, and have been for many years.
    Live Beautiful, Feel Beautiful, Be Beautiful.
    April Cornell

    May 7, 2010 at 2:11 pm |
  16. Papenfus

    Just like the rest of Africa.

    A few elite blacks have millions of dollars in there bank account while the rest must suffer to survive.

    To betrayed a other race is one thing, to turn your back on your own people to suffer while you life like a king is something ells.

    May 7, 2010 at 7:51 pm |
  17. Seleko

    I'm so proud of my mom's company!!!!!

    So inspired by her and her lady business partners!!!

    We young people have so much to aspire to!!!

    May 13, 2010 at 12:18 am |
  18. Kachenga Chisupa

    Guess women can create change because they are endowed with the gift of deep analysis that is weighing the many options while the men folk tend to be "risk takers" generally. This was a good study and interview.

    June 2, 2010 at 6:04 am |
  19. Sarah

    Women executives are more cautious than their male counterpart. We have seen many successful women business executives and hope the trend continues to rise.
    -- ----–
    They inspired us

    June 5, 2010 at 12:14 am |
  20. elmanarh

    Wonderful words and poignant and a remarkable effort given away
    reflects the view of her continued success and

    June 13, 2010 at 9:18 am |
  21. Donna Morton

    I am the CEO of an energy company and our unique work stems from two things; a belief that communities have deep wisdom and we need businesses that we will be proud of when our grandchildren ask tough questions. I just created a 1 minute about out work, would love feedback, see:

    thank you, Donna

    January 30, 2011 at 3:54 am |

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