A little while ago, Asanda Jama’s manager sent her a video highlighting how girls are taught to be perfect, while boys are encouraged to try everything, and how that impacts young people as they grow up. Men who meet 60% of a role’s requirements often try for a promotion while women will only apply when they meet 100% of the requirements. This resonated with Jama, who, at 27, is just entering the world of work.
Having recently completed Sanlam’s Graduate Programme, Jama is currently a fulltime member of the Sanlam internal audit team. She says she loves the travel prospects her new job brings, “As a young person, I’m learning not to be scared to ask for opportunities. Since January, I’ve already been to Kenya, Zambia and Botswana.”
The Graduate Programme exposed Jama to powerful women who showed her anything is possible. Originally from the Eastern Cape, Jama says this is something she wishes she’d had more of growing up, “Girls in rural areas need more exposure to powerful women. If you’ve never seen something, how can you aspire to be that? One day, I want to be that woman who inspires them.”
One of the women Jama admires at Sanlam is Azola Zuma, Chief Executive Officer of Sanlam Investment Management, “She’s still so young and it’s amazing what she’s achieved. She said we need to know that no-one owes us anything. You have to get up and get it for yourself.”
And that’s exactly what Jama plans to do. “Right now, I just want to learn. Sanlam opens up so many doors. I’m excited to get on the next plane and see where the opportunity takes me.”
Last year, Leigh Solomon was chosen to be one of 20 young people participating in the Sanlam Future Leaders Development Programme. The intensive development programme includes time with Sanlam’s most senior executives, one-on-one coaching and Group-wide exposure. For Solomon, this exposure was priceless.
Extremely ambitious, Solomon has been promoted twice since starting at Sanlam as part of the Underwriting Graduate Programme in 2011. Now the youngest person at junior-management level in her team, she says confidence is key, “I want people to say I lead with courage. As a young woman of colour, I need to believe in my skills and not feel inferior to anyone else. Sometimes it’s hard to change people’s way of thinking – especially when things have ‘always been done like this’. Then it’s about presenting an alternative way of thinking, in ways that resonate with people.”
Solomon has had strong women backing her throughout her career, like her current manager. “Hedwig Robertson is the Chief Underwriter: Distribution Support and new Products. I look up to her. She takes herself seriously, so others take her seriously. She’s also not threatened by young women moving up the ranks – she supports us and our development.”
And that support is what Solomon wants for girl-children from a young age. “I belong to Sanlam’s Women’s Network. For the past few years, we’ve been providing girls with sanitary towels, so they don’t have to miss school. It’s so important we support young women in this way. I also think exposure is critical. More girl-children need to know that they’re capable of absolutely anything. They are going to change the world.”
Prudence Seleme joined Sanlam for the opportunities and mentorship the Sanlam Graduate Programme presented, “The beginning of your career can be quite overwhelming. Receiving mentorship and coaching at a personal and professional level helped to bridge the gap and created a safe space to explore what I wanted in future roles.”
Since starting at Sanlam through the Graduate Programme in 2015, Seleme has moved from Business Analyst to Systems Analyst in Sanlam Personal Finance. She is a member of the Sanlam Personal Finance IT’s Women in IT network. This network aims to empower, support and mentor women in IT roles. She is also the co-chairperson of the Sanlam Personal Finance IT Corporate Social Investment team, which focuses on giving back to society.
Seleme was part of the Business System Analyst Capability program which fast-tracks IT employees. She says it was a stepping stone for her career.
“We need more leadership programmes that are focused on women in order to develop more female leaders. Mentorship is important, plus a clear path that plots out how we progress. It’s about identifying and nurturing talent at an early stage. As the younger generation, if such opportunities are created in South Africa, then it will create more optimism for the youth. I am passionate about engaging with people, therefore, I see myself in project management in the next five years. “
Additionally, Seleme believes that women should not be afraid, “We need to step out of our comfort zones. We need to want to learn. When an opportunity arises to be challenged, let us embrace it and go with it.”
As a new mom, Jana Lamprecht says her team has been extremely empathetic and understanding, which has made all the difference, “I think this is reflective of how the workplace in general has become more female-friendly, with a focus on transformation and the creation of an environment that’s more accommodating to women.”
While there’s more to be done, Lamprecht believes there’s an encouraging pipeline of exceptional women working their way through the ranks, “It takes a while for the turnaround to be seen, especially in the actuarial space I’m in, but there are many diverse young actuaries entering the profession. And a lot of this is due to investment and support from companies like Sanlam.”
Lamprecht joined Sanlam in 2013, following two years at a short-term insurance consulting company. She’s been with the group for five years and counting and says she won’t be leaving any time soon, “It’s a company which really invests in its people. I’ve been exposed to many opportunities for development. I was placed in a mentorship programme from the day I started at Sanlam and received individualised coaching as part of a Future Leaders Development Programme last year. I experience Sanlam to be an investor in its people to ensure each individual maximises their potential for growth.”