Yolanda Ngalwana Mabuto
Creating Opportunities For Women To Succeed In Male-Dominated Sectors
By Fatima Gorezi
Yolanda Ngalwana is a multiple global award winner, a mother of three and the CEO of Divaine Growth Solutions, a company with a vision to facilitate and implement the 2030 sustainable development goals focusing on clean and affordable energy, gender equality and education in South Africa. She has an extensive experience in Project Management, Investment Management, Integration Management, Financial Management, and Scope Management from working for Eskom’s Western Cape Operating Unit’s Project. She is very passionate about empowerment, economic and social development, education. Yolanda is also a globe trotter as in 2017 she visited UK to learn about their education systems with the aim to come back and implement contextualised working strategies in South Africa.
How do you remember the beginning of your career?
My career began at Eskom Holdings, a state-owned entity in Cape Town, South Africa. I started my career as a student in training, I worked my way up and ended up in the Project Execution Department where we were project-managing Eskom’s substation, lines and street light projects. I realised by then that I wanted to be in business and make a positive impact in the global space as a woman. I furthered my studies at the University of Cape Town’s Graduate School of Business, where my business skills were polished and refined. My senior manager at Eskom in Project Execution was one of the leaders who believed in my strength. He introduced myself and 4 other female colleagues to the Association of Municipal Electricity Utility’s program named Women in Electricity, where I was appointed as the National Secretary and Chairperson for Western Cape. His vision was to create an enabling environment for female to add value in the sector. I took that opportunity to prove myself outside Eskom, which really encouraged me to create my own portfolio. That is where the passion for women in energy came from. Being part of the AMEU executive council provided me an opportunity to understand the sector more and find a way to position myself. Ever since, I have won several awards within the sector and added value where possible.
What attracted you to this career path?
I was attracted by the challenge and excitement that business offers. I was also attracted by the fact that not many women choose to be in business, especially in the energy sector. The sector is still very much male-dominated and promises several opportunities for women who are ready to make a positive impact and change the world.
Is being an entrepreneur something you always dreamed of?
Yes, I always wanted to create a legacy that will run for the next 300 years and more. I understand that being an entrepreneur contributes into the country’s economy through employment creation.
What has been the most challenging project you’ve undertaken?
Introducing an operational efficiency program which was dealing with change management. I received negative and mostly positive responses but I had to work hard and smart to win the hearts of the group that was anti-digital, but in the end everyone was on board.
What can you tell us more about South African women?
South African women are now very much aware of the role they can play in the business world, to even contribute to the progress of the country. This stems from the massive Women’s March to the Union Buildings in Pretoria 50 years ago. We have learnt that women don’t deserve just to be taught that their place is in the kitchen but rather be encouraged to follow their dreams and add value where they are best at.
We are good at social responsibility as we are a social country embracing our diverse nature. South African women are committed to transforming gender relations and women’s empowerment, hence my organisation’s vision is also to address the gender equality goal amongst other global goals. We understand that complaining about everything that goes wrong will not help us but working together as private sector and the public sector will help us tackle several challenges.
What advice do you have for women just embarking on their career paths, whether they’re hoping to become entrepreneurs or be successful at an established company?
To always believe in what you do and embark into something you truly love and do it with utmost honesty. To surround yourself with positive people who see value in you and who can hold you accountable for your actions. Always learn something new everyday and be willing to share and transfer knowledge to those around you. Commit into something whole heartedly and celebrate small wins to sustain motivation and excitement.
What is special about your lifestyle?
I am a very spiritual person. I think that is special because not everyone is. I am a mother to three beautiful and special kids, Zona first born daughter (19), son Yonwabisa (12) and last-born daughter Lumi (6), they are all special in my life and keep me humble and very grounded. I am a daughter, a sister, a wife to Monwabisi Mabuto, who supported me and allowed me to dream; a mentor and community builder. I always fight for a balanced life, where I know when to be a mother to my kids and a business woman. I am happy to be surrounded by a strong support structure that has allowed me to be where I am today. My mother (Zoliswa Msime) and grandmother (Helen Ngalwana) played a huge role in my life, as they believed in my dreams and prayed for me along the way.