‘Belonging – Beat the Odds’ with Faith Khanyile in South Africa

How Do Minority Groups Beat the Odds? Systems remain firmly entrenched unless there are focussed forces for change. Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) don’t just happen. Whether in the workplace or society, it requires conscious intention and action. Government and policy play their part. Judicial legislation moves the needle. Corporations need clear corporate frameworks with defined strategies and plans, including bold hiring practices. But more than DEI is required. To gain real competitive advantage, institutions need to drive cultural change and give all groups a sense of authentic ‘belonging’ to gain competitive benefits and advantages. Even against the odds when minorities are excluded and do not have a seat at the table, if raised differently, minority groups can and do ‘beat the odds.’

Faith Khanyile talks about these and more in this conversation with Anne Pratt. Joining the show from Johannesburg, South Africa, Faith is a staunch champion for women’s economic and social empowerment across South Africa and the African continent. Learn how diversity, equity, inclusion, AND belonging deliver competitive advantage and why it is deeply needed nowadays, especially for women and other marginalized groups.

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‘Belonging – Beat the Odds’ with Faith Khanyile in South Africa

How Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, AND Belonging Deliver Competitive Advantage

Our thoughtful board leader joins us from the Southern tip of Africa in the City of Gold, Johannesburg, South Africa. She is a director of companies and a non-executive director of multiple Johannesburg stock exchange-listed boards, including Discovery, Bidvest, and JSE Limited. She served as a senior corporate executive in financial services, focusing primarily on private equity, corporate and investment banking, and impact investments.

She is a champion of change for the economic and social empowerment and upliftment of women across South Africa and Africa. She is a founder and a former chief executive of the Women’s Development Business Investment Holdings Group, which created broad-based investment opportunities for women, including rural women.

In 2017, she won South Africa’s Businesswoman of the Year Award in the corporate category. She has published articles in leading publications like the Financial Mail. She also has degrees in Finance and Tax from leading universities in the United States and South Africa, including the Bentley Graduate School of Business, the University of Johannesburg, and Columbia Business School.

Stay with us as she shares compelling insights around diversity, equity, and inclusion, particularly in large corporations, what is possible when we raise our kids differently, the compelling corporate framework, and why corporations and institutions need top-down support metrics and economic incentives to drive transformation and results. We warmly welcome my dear friend, Faith Khanyile.


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Faith, thank you so much for coming to have this conversation. It has been a long time. I have missed seeing you and talking to you, but I’m pleased you are part of this conversation. Thank you.

Thank you for the invitation, Anne. I’m looking forward to this conversation.

Leading boldly into the future, what is your definition of leadership and boldness?

My definition of leadership is about leading yourself and knowing who you are. How will you lead others if you don’t know who you are? Good leaders know who they are and their core values, strengths, weaknesses, and purpose. What makes them tick? Why do they wake up in the morning? For me, that is what a leader is. It is someone that knows themselves and is confident of who they are. With their abilities, assets, and liabilities, they use those characteristics and attributes to impact others positively. A leader is someone passionate about impacting other people positively.

A leader is someone passionate about impacting other people positively. Click To Tweet

What is your definition of boldness? How would you define that?

For me, boldness is about doing difficult things, doing things that you got a lot of fear towards, and doing things that are almost impossible to do, but saying to yourself, “I will put my energy, invest time, and do whatever I can to make something happen. It may look impossible, but I would put my all into making it happen.” Being bold is going against the grain. It is also going against your own discomfort. It’s doing what your heart desires and what is right for others.

You have exemplified that in your own life on more than one occasion. You began with the definition of leadership that talks about knowing ourselves. You come from a remarkable family. I would love for you to share a little about your early childhood. What shaped you? Where did you grow up? What did your parents do? How did they shape you in terms of those core values, knowing who you are, and being able to live and lead with boldness?

I was born in South Africa in a province called KwaZulu-Natal in a small village outside Empangeni. I was the second born of six siblings, three boys, and three girls. I grew up in a family where it didn’t matter if you were a boy or a girl. Everyone did whatever chore at home. The boys cook and clean the clothes, and the girls do the same. My parents also owned a general dealer shop in the community. They sold anything from milk and bread to personal care.

When we were growing up, after school, we were expected to help out in the shop. That is the early upbringing of one saying, “It doesn’t matter whether you are a boy or a girl. You have to all get involved in whatever needs to be done.” Secondly, we are working hard. After school, we were never idle. We were always in the shop, helping, engaging with the community and people, and understanding what is happening in people’s lives. When you own a shop or a business, you are not just selling goods and services. There is a relationship there. That’s what I learned earlier on in my childhood.

That is progressive for that time when girls and boys in your family were raised to do the same chores. Do you think that has shifted your mindset around every important issue of gender? Not only gender inclusion but the whole issue of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging. How has that navigated your path and your mindset? How has that shifted your mindset? What do you think others need to do?

That has shaped my mindset and outlook and how I engage with others in the workplace and socially. I’m quite involved in women’s development, impact investing, and making sure that we are inclusive in the way we think and in the way we design our institutions and processes. I believe that each and every person has got their own greatness and unique attributes. They must be allowed to contribute in an environment that encourages inclusivity.

If I look at my career over the past 25 years, what I learned earlier at home and later on through my education, I’m now applying those learnings and principles in everything I do. They shaped who I am. That is appreciating the uniqueness of each and every person and not closing doors on people because one is a man, a woman, or gender neutral.

I don’t know if you recall this conversation a few years ago when you were head of corporate banking back in Standard Bank, one of the big listed banks in South Africa. I remember conversing with you about this whole issue of inclusion, more broadly within South Africa’s transformation and the importance of inclusion. Many corporations would tick the boxes of diversity and inclusion, and they would tick the numbers. We have many people on our boards or executive teams. I distinctly remember you saying, “It is one thing to tick the boxes, but what do my fellow bosses and colleagues know about Faith, the person, my husband Reggie, and my children?” In the context of inclusion, what is “inclusion” in the workplace?

Inclusion in the workplace starts with a mindset because if your mindset does not embrace different people, either through gender, race, or background, you will not get to the nitty-gritty of what inclusion is about. It starts with leaders with the right mindset, open and forward-thinking, and embracing differences.

Inclusion in the workplace starts with a mindset. Click To Tweet

Once you get that leadership with the right mindset, it is about having policies promoting it. The policies alone will not work if the environment is not conducive to promoting inclusion. You need the policies, but you also need an inclusive environment. For example, an environment that provides maternity benefits for women or allows them flexibility if they have children and need to watch their kids play soccer. You need policies that are enabling and that promote inclusion.

Inclusion does not just happen. You have to have these ongoing training programs because there are a lot of unconscious biases that lead to people excluding others without even realizing it. You need to have these ongoing intense training programs. Lastly, you need to have measurements and targets. It is one thing for us to say, “It is all about having enabling environment and having leaders with the right mindset that are embracing inclusion.” We must have targets. Unfortunately, in this world, we still don’t have fair representation targets that are measurable, where people can be accountable, and where the board of directors of companies is also asking the right questions about inclusion and diversity.

Do you have an example for us where an organization was struggling to create this environment of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging? Is there a specific example? What was the challenge at that moment? What was the pivotal moment when organizations realized they needed to shift something?

I do have an example. I’m still involved with that organization as a non-executive board member. The challenge was you have this board of directors, as well as the executive, that is 80%-plus male and White.

Can you tell us what sector this is?

This is in the financial services sector. It is a large company in South Africa that is also listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange. I’m a non-executive director on the board of this company. It is a large board as well. It is a board of about 15 or 16 people. The board had two women, one Black gentleman, and the rest were White males. The executive committee was 100%, White males. I served on the Social and Ethics Committee of the board. The Social and Ethics Committees’ key role is to drive this diversity, equity, and inclusion on the boards. In South Africa, it is a legislated committee.

Given my interest in inclusion and diversity, I said, “I want to serve on this committee.” We started this process of understanding why we have a board and an executive committee that is completely not representative of South Africa. First, we needed to ensure an alignment within the group, the CEO, and the board chair to say, “This is a problem that needs to be looked at.” We did that.

Once we had the buy-in from the chair of the board and the CEO, as a committee, we partnered with the various executives to find ways to transform their teams and understand why the teams were not diverse. The typical reason we were getting from these executives was that they couldn’t find the right women or Black people to appoint into these roles.

That is often the objection or the alleged reason, which in some cases may be more challenging, but in other cases, it is finding the right people in the right places.

Fast forward to now. There has been a remarkable change in this particular company. The board now is 35% Black and 25% women. It is still not where we want it to be, but at least there are targets now. The company has put stress targets to say, “By 2025, we want it to be at least 35% women and 45% Black.” That is a big take.

If we look at the executive level, what has happened there is the change has been slow, but there has been diversity. If you look at the makeup of the ex-co now, it is about 40% female, which is impressive. If you look at the senior management level, the female representation is even higher. We hope that, over time, you will have these ladies moving up to the executive committee so that the committee is more diverse. That is an example of what we had to do. We’re in partnership with the leadership and trying to help them think outside the box to find the right talent to bring into the business.

I was going to ask you that first. In terms of shifting the mindset of the current executives, what were the steps you went through when people said, “We can’t find the right people?” Can you take us through the essential steps that helped that executive shift the mindset and the quantity of what they have done and these positive improvements?

The process involved partnering with the executives and understanding where the opportunities are to bring either women or people of color. That’s critical. There is that partnership and collaboration because you cannot force people to do anything. Once you get that partnership, you know what the executives will say. It will come up because, usually, the executives have a talent pool. They showed us the pool. We said, “This pool will still not help you solve your problem. Let us connect you with recruitment agencies that can help you.” We did that.

Usually, board members are not that involved because sometimes you don’t want to get operational. That is not your role. In this case, because the management did see that. We are coming from the right place of partnering with them and helping them to solve the problem, which they have now accepted that there was a problem.

We connected them with the right organizations and individuals that could help them find the talent. We also said to them to think outside of the box. For example, look for commercial lawyers and stuff like that that you can appoint to the organization. That was the process. After that end, it is about monitoring the performance every quarter and opening the door to say, “We are here as a committee to partner and support you. Let us know when there are problems.” That is what has enabled the successes that we have seen.

Are there incentives built around creating greater impact from diversity and inclusion? I mean personal performance, bonuses, and incentives?

That is critical, Anne. That was one of the key game-changers. Sometimes, unfortunately, people’s pockets must head before they can shift the way they think and the way they do things. That was one of the critical recommendations: “Let us make sure that people take this issue seriously by having a specific performance indicator linked to diversity, inclusion, and transformation.”


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You alluded earlier to some of the legislative issues regarding the social and ethics committee at the board level. Can you pinpoint the critical legislation guidance for the social and ethics committee? What are the key points of legislation that guide your committee in terms of what you do around diversity, equity, and inclusion?

The Employment Equity Act and the broad-based Black Economic Empowerment Act are key legislations. Those critical pieces of legislation drive this agenda of change, transformation, and inclusivity. These legislations are trying to address economic inclusivity from several levels, from the ownership level of the companies to the management-controlled structure, i.e., who is making decisions in this company and then from the procurement perspective of these organizations.

What Apartheid did in South Africa was that it completely marginalized the participation of Black people in the economy. Black people ended up being shop owners. They have not integrated into the mainstream economy. The procurement aspect of the legislation then aims to address that and to have more Black people and women-owned businesses procuring from these large companies.

The other one is around enterprise and supplier development. This is where business is expected to support small and medium-sized businesses. In South Africa, they are the largest employers and job creators, but they are not necessarily linked tightly to the value chain of these large corporates. The last one is the socioeconomic development element. That speaks to investing in communities where businesses make money and ensuring those communities are uplifted. I missed the other one, the skills development. That is a critical one. That is the training and developing of people and ensuring they can participate effectively in the economy.

To what extent have these legislative changes helped organizations and corporations in South Africa make these big transformational steps? How important is the legislation?

The legislation end has been a catalyst for getting South Africa to where it is now. We still have a long way to go. If I look at the ownership element of the legislation, earlier on in the ‘90s, when Black Economic Empowerment legislation was introduced, there was a lot of emphasis on ownership. You had several Black and women-owned businesses that were started due to that legislation.

For someone like myself, I was fortunate to have been part of that through one of the organizations that I was associated with as a founding member, Women’s Development Bank Investment Holdings, which is a women-owned and led company that is there to promote meaningful participation of women in the economy. That company would not have been created if it was not for this legislation.

There are lots of other companies that have been created. Wiphold is a women’s investment portfolio company. Thebe Investment Holders has gone on to make a huge difference in the areas of education. These are broad-based investment companies that are not just benefiting a few individuals. They aim to benefit communities. Some companies have been formed benefiting individuals, which is also fine.

That element of Black Economic Empowerment legislation the country started with it, and it was pushed hard. Later, other elements like management control and the 2013 BEE Amendment Act introduce procurement, enterprise and supplier development, and skills development. Where we see traction is in skills development, where companies are required to invest 1% of their net profit after tax into skills development and enterprise and supply development. We’re seeing a lot of traction there.

We are seeing companies contributing heavily towards education in our country, which is great. The management control, which looks at who is running these companies and the economy, is where we are failing, as also the women on boards. The boards are not transformed in terms of gender. We are too slow. Looking at the Johannesburg listed companies, we have been sitting at about 20% for so long regarding gender representation. It is mixed in terms of how the legislation has been done. It has gone a long way to transforming the economy.

As we know, in terms of women on boards, that is a global phenomenon. All around the world are still struggling with that transformation process. It struck in me the story of your early childhood. I could imagine your brothers also cooking and doing things. How do your brothers feel about the role of women at home and in the workplace? How do you think that has shaped your brothers and their mindset and outlook on life, work, and how they conduct themselves in the world?


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My brothers are very progressive. They don’t have issues with who they are as men because sometimes, unfortunately, men have got problems with advancing women. They got issues themselves. They embrace and respect women and the role they can and are playing in society. They also have girl children, the brother that comes after me. You can see how he has also raised his children. Their daughter got honors in Economics. Their son is studying to become a CA. There were never any limitations to saying boys do this and girls do a female profession. Their entire approach, mindset, and demeanor are for women. They don’t see women as a threat. They are supportive of women’s advancement. They don’t have a choice because I make sure they do it.

It brings to mind that question because not only is this important for how parents are raising children, but for those adults now that weren’t raised in that way. What do organizations or other support structures need to do to help shift that mindset?

Before we even go to the organizations, it all starts at home. Parents must start freeing themselves from their own mental slavery because this is what this is. If parents can start freeing themselves and see their children as who they are and not as a boy or a girl is critical. The second thing is if you look at the wider society, business, and schools. For me, it is not just about equality. It is about respect for others, respect for differences, and appreciation for the differences that the different thinking ways and qualities that we each bring to the table. For me, it is about that. We need to stop that and start recognizing and appreciating other people.

Schools can play a huge role in shaping young minds and changing how they view the world and relate to each other across gender, race, etc. If that foundation is strong, by the time these young people get to the workplace, there is not much to do. From both sides, they understand that each person has something unique that they are bringing to the table. That is important for the success of everybody. We have to start as early as possible.

If they haven’t had that shaping of mindset at home or school, what do corporations or organizations do?

Organizations must introduce programs to promote inclusivity, equity, and diversity in the workplace. Unfortunately, there has to be legislation. This is a global issue. This is not a South African issue. We need policies. It is almost like a framework and standard they can use to transform their workplace.

It is not just the corporations but also the government that must play their role to make sure that organizations, companies, and businesses have got policies in place that promotes this. We have talked about diversity, equity, and inclusion for so long, and nothing is changing. This means that something is broken. If we are talking about it, but nothing is changing, it means we have to introduce new ways of making the changes we want.

As far as companies are concerned, it is about being accountable, having accountability, and measuring the impact. There have to be performance indicators and incentives. Let us approach this subject like we approach the profit and loss statement. It has to be integrated into the business. The minute it is integrated, we don’t have to have these separate committees that deal with equity, inclusion, and diversity. It’s not easy, but things must be integrated into the business for people to see that they must take them seriously.

What was the key defining moment in your young life? You have this remarkable family, and many of you have also gone on smiling about how you started as a young dealer in a shop in a village. You went on to study Economics and a Master’s in Business Administration and Finance. Your brothers have a financial orientation, or some have anyway. What was the defining moment for you in your young life? Was there a moment when it was hard and difficult? What was that moment? When did something shift in your mind?

I did not grow up as a privileged person. I went to Bantu Education schools during the era of Apartheid. My parents were not educated. They worked hard to send us to schools. It is not like they had huge financial means. When I was in my final school year (matric), I was fortunate to get a scholarship to go to the US to Emma Willard School, one of the top girls’ schools in America. That was a defining moment. I was nineteen years old. I had never been on an airplane. I had never been anywhere. I don’t even think that I had even been to Johannesburg.

My life was in KwaZulu-Natal. Suddenly, at the age of nineteen, I applied for this scholarship that some independent schools in the US created. The idea was to take promising bright Black post-matric students to these private schools and give them a year to prepare for a US college. One of the teachers who believed in me in high school encouraged me to apply. I applied, and luckily, I got in. The process had to start to apply for a passport. I did not have a passport to apply for a visa and everything. It was all rushed, but it was done.

What year was that roughly?

That was in 1986. I got on the airplane. I remember that we flew via Frankfurt to get to the airport. I was scared. I was like, “Am I even going to know what next flight to take?”

Frankfurt is a major airport in Europe.

Fortunately, I got there and connected to New York City. I was met by a teacher from New York City, Emma Willard. We flew to Albany in a small aircraft. I was so scared because I thought this thing was going to crash. We flew to Albany. From Albany, we drove to Troy. This is where Emma Willard is. I was not speaking English every day. I learned English in class, but at home and with my friends, we spoke IsiZulu. Suddenly, I’m in this place where no one speaks IsiZulu. I have to learn to speak English.

That was a defining moment because I had to completely forget who I was before and start again as a new person, as the new Faith. That experience taught me to learn and embrace starting again. It is not easy, but I have learned to say, “This is extremely hard, but you must start again. You have to try and embrace it.” To finish off with Emma Willard, I was fortunate because it was a supportive environment. I took English as a second language because I had to do that. I tried.

The first few months were difficult. The school assigned a family for me. I spent Thanksgiving with them. It was so cold. In my first winter there, I thought I would never survive, but I did because of the support of the school and my host family. I’m still friends with their daughter in the same class as me. I also realized that there is something huge inside of me that I always have to go back, leverage, and dig deep. At the end of the school year, I applied to colleges in the US. I got in, and the rest is history.

What struck me about what you say is when you talk about starting over again. Can you take us through the essential steps that helped you? When you say start over again, define your identity in a new environment. A lot of people struggle with that, even myself. I’m from South Africa. I’m moving abroad to the United States of America. It isn’t easy. It is a process.

What were the critical steps for anyone going through these big changes? What part of you did you still hang onto? You are talking about your childhood and upbringing. It is starting again in you. How did you do that? How do you still encapsulate parts of who you are, those deep roots, in terms of where you come from? How do you integrate the two? Those are three separate questions. Firstly, how did you start again? What were the key steps?

The key steps were I had to accept that I didn’t have a choice. I need to make this work. That was the first thing. This is an extremely difficult environment, but you don’t have a choice because you cannot give up and return home with nothing. I accepted that “I have to stay here.” The second thing was to say, “What do I need to succeed in this environment?” It is a process of saying, “What am I good at? What am I not good at? Where are those gaps? How do I close the gaps? Who is going to help me to close those gaps?

It is about being open. I had to be open to saying, “I don’t know. I’m struggling. I need help.” These days, they talk about being vulnerable. Now you know your gaps and what you need to address. How do you then do that? Academically, there were gaps. I had to take extra lessons in my English. I had to work extra hard to ensure that I could be at the level that would ensure that I succeeded. My Math was not that great. I worked hard to make sure that I could close the gaps that I had.

It’s working hard and having a support structure around you of people that are encouraging you. I could still call home once in a while and speak to my parents for support and help, and having this mental strength. The mental strength, I probably got that from my upbringing. What did I bring along with this newness of me? I was raised in a Christian home. Faith, praying, meditating, and asking the universe for help are critical. Even now, it is part of my life and journey.

What also struck me was when you said, “You had to, and you didn’t have a choice.” In a way, you did have a choice. You could not have succeeded, but knowing that you want to succeed was a choice. There are certain standards within yourself. Knowing you and what I know about you, that is very much built in around there was a choice, but it was about your own personal standards. I’m shifting gears slightly. What in your mind are perhaps 2 or 3 of the biggest leadership challenges we face now?

One of the biggest challenges is that we no longer have this typical leader we all look up to. We don’t have someone like Mandela, who was a selfless man. He had to transform whatever egos he had to forgive others. He put the needs of each and every South African before his needs. That is the biggest challenge. We don’t have that. For me, the opportunity is that each and every one of us must step up and become a leader.

We don’t have a leader like Mandela anymore. But then the opportunity there is that each and every one of us must step up and become a leader. Click To Tweet

Many of us have had several Mandela Moments, a moment that stands out regarding how Mandela shaped, inspired, or encouraged us to think, act, and lead differently. What has been an important Mandela Moment for you? What key event struck you around the man, his life, and his leadership?

I never had the privilege of meeting Mandela as face-to-face as you did. I was still in the United States when he was released from prison.

That was February 11th, 1990.

I remember that confidence, grace, peace, and calmness. That is what I remember about him. There was no anger. He was at peace with who he was. That is the moment with Mandela that I remember.

How has that shaped you in how you conduct yourself? What did you take away from that? How did you bring that into your life or build on what you have?

First, Mandela did not get to where he got to in 1990 by doing nothing. He had to do a lot of self-work. If you want to be a different person, transform yourself, and achieve whatever goals you want, you will have to work on yourself every day. By doing that, you reach that level where nothing can shake you. You are calm and confident that nothing will shake you because you know who you are and what drives you. That is something that I continue to work on.

If you want to be a different person, if you want to transform yourself, if you want to achieve whatever goals that you want to achieve, you need to work on yourself every day. Click To Tweet

What do you do daily to make you unshakable? You are a calm person. I have always thought that about you.

Yes, but I also have my moments. I’m not perfect.

Not perfection, but I have always known you to be a centered and calm person. What are the daily rituals?

I wake up in the morning, breathe, and take that moment to appreciate that I’m awake. My soul is still connected to my body. I still have all the things and the blessings that I have. I take a moment to breathe and appreciate it. From there, I will go downstairs. After brushing my teeth, I grab my coffee and meditate. I will go for a walk or a run if it is not winter because I don’t like cold weather. Before COVID, I returned home, showered, and went to the office, but now it is working from home. That is the ritual that I try to stick to.

You find that helps you with calmness.

It does. I want my life to be rounded. The mind, body, and spirit; I’m trying to do that because that brings me calm, especially when facing challenges, frustrations, and difficult situations. That is how I have been trying to live my life.

On the spiritual side, you spoke about waking up with appreciation and meditation. Are there any other spiritual rituals that help you stay grounded and calm?

I also study spirituality. I study Kabbalah. That also helps me to push my mind a bit. Those are the things that I do.

In terms of Mandela’s leadership, do you think it is still relevant for the world now? If so, how and why?

It is definitely still relevant in the world now. There is so much suffering and chaos. Who is causing the chaos? We are causing chaos because we don’t appreciate the interconnectedness we have as human beings. We don’t appreciate other people’s lives. You see many killings. It is that lack of appreciation for the life of others. Mandela understood the importance of another human being. He was big on human dignity. We must start by appreciating others’ lives and learning from someone like Mandela. If we can do that, we can start to shift the energy. The energy now is bad. We are not thinking that we are so interconnected.

Humans are causing chaos. We're causing chaos because we don't appreciate the interconnectedness that we have as human beings. Click To Tweet

You are saying from Mandela, learning those principles of how to go through our own transformation and embrace our interconnectedness, dignity, and respect for the rest and all of humanity. What do you think Mandela would say to the world’s leaders now?

I think Mandela would say, “Be selfless. Care for others. Don’t put your interests, whether economic or selfish interests, before the needs of others. Put the needs of others, especially the most vulnerable. Can you please let it stop and put their needs before your needs?”

Don’t put your interests above the needs of others. Click To Tweet

What would he say to our children and the next generation?

I think he will say, “Don’t give up. There is always a light at the end of the tunnel. Keep doing the right thing.”

Tell me about that early experience on an airplane coming to America when you went to the United States when you were nineteen years old. What was the most daunting part of that journey? What was the toughest for you?

The toughest for me was when we were taking off and up on the clouds. For the first few hours, I was shaking the whole time. I realized that I fear heights. That was the first time that I realized that. It was not pleasant. It was a rough ride internally.

Are you still afraid of flying?

No, I’m not. I have learned to overcome that fear. I was deliberate. I have to overcome it.

You are married to a wonderful man called Reggie. What is the one thing Reggie would say he loves most about you?

I think he would say he loves my independence and straight talking. What you see is what you get.

He was raised by parents who also appreciated strong independent women.

His mother was.

What has been the most joyful part of being a mother?

The joyful part is watching them grow and become their own beings and their own selves. That has been joyful for me.

Share briefly who your children are and where they are in the world.

My first one lives in Cape Town, South Africa. My second one is in New York. My third son is in Massachusetts. My last one still lives with us here in Johannesburg, South Africa.

You got a tough combination in terms of balancing all these balls. I know you are a hands-on and committed parent as well. In closing, any final thoughts around leadership, in terms of leadership generally, and what you do now in the world, and any final thoughts around what you think Mandela would say to our generation and the next?

Regarding leadership, we must understand that our role is to allow others’ greatness to shine. As leaders, we must be obsessed with investing in our people, supporting them, and helping them realize their true potential and greatness. That is one of the critical roles of leaders.

As leaders, we need to understand that our role is to allow the greatness of others to shine. Click To Tweet

The second is about understanding that we are responsible for others, our communities, and society. These days they call it stakeholder capitalism, but leadership is about remembering that you got these multiple stakeholders impacted by your actions, either positive or negative. That is an important one. We also have to embrace the global community and other people in that same thread of stakeholders.

The other thing is the issue of sustainability. Environmental, social, and governance or ESG are big now. Leaders must embrace that because that is one of the key ways that we can have a different future. If we care about the environment and society and are committed to governance principles, we can create a world that will be different for future generations.

On that very uplifting note, thank you for being the fabulous woman you are. You truly are a woman of faith. Thank you for sharing your insights and for your work in the world.

Thank you for the opportunity, Anne. I appreciate the time with you and all the best with your project.

Thank you.

Our conversation with Faith Khanyile around diversity, equity, and inclusion begs the question, what is DEI? It is a conceptual framework designed to promote and implement full and fair participation of all people, including those historically underrepresented, unfairly treated, or historically disadvantaged. It is underpinned by core human values of equity, inclusion, and dignity, where we acknowledge the inherent value and worth of each and every human being.

Lessons from Faith help us better understand the South African context. Large corporations are driving change and transformation. We better understand the conceptual framework and the different aspects we need to focus on in driving and implementing diversity, equity, and inclusion to beat the odds and create a sustainable competitive advantage.

For DEI to work, we need to move beyond ticking the boxes. We need to move beyond developing and implementing the conceptual framework. We must create a new culture and give all people a strong sense of belonging, safe, supported, accepted, and included. I watched a much-cherished real-life sports movie drama, which features the Academy Award-winning actress Sandra Bullock. It is called “The Blind Side.”

It is a real-life story of Michael Oher, a talented Black kid born and raised in the poverty-stricken streets and neighborhoods in the conservative non-liberal city of Memphis, Tennessee, in the United States of America. Michael gained admission to a top Christian school because of his ball-game talent, but he was always the outsider, and then life intervened. He was taken in and later adopted by the Tuohy family, a White, wealthy, conservative Christian family with strong moral courage. He was mentored by the fearless matriarch of the family, Leigh Anne Tuohy.

Despite the movie’s critics and concerns around racial stereotyping, their misjudgment of his lack of quality education, and perceiving that as a lack of intelligence and the way they depicted adoption, the real part of the story reveals to us the missing magical ingredient in DEI, and that is giving all people a strong sense of belonging, the advantaged and disadvantaged alike.

When Michael came into this family, there was extra skills development, but most importantly, what he experienced were loving human kindness and bold moral courage. They had his back and a strong sense of family and belonging. “You are one of us. You are part of the inner circle. You, too, are protected and can feel safe, supported, accepted, and included.

Michael went on to beat the odds. He upskilled his low grades and ultimately graduated at the University of Mississippi, or Ole Miss as they call it. He became the star performer on the school football team, and he received multiple college offers to play for multiple colleges and their football teams around the country. He also went on to play in the NFL, the National Football League. The real confirmation and revelation were affirmed by Michael Oher, who published his biography called I Beat The Odds. He said, “These are my family. Without them, I would not be here.”

You, too, can help individuals beat the odds. You, too, can develop and implement DEI transformation strategies and plans in a way that creates a sustainable competitive advantage. How? By giving all people a strong sense of belonging. Until next time, remember that leading boldly is about making thoughtful clear choices, and bold leadership is about taking bold action one small step at a time. One small step for you, but together, a giant step for humanity. Come back soon and share with your friends because the world needs you to lead boldly, take care, and take thoughtful bold action.


Important Links


About Faith Khanyile

LBF 26 | Diversity Equity And InclusionFaith Khanyile is a Director of companies. Until recently, she was the CEO of Women’s Development Business Investment Holdings (WDBIH) of which she is one of the founding members. WDBIH is a broad-based women owned and led strategic investor established in 1996 to promote the meaningful participation of women in the South African economy with a focus to facilitating economic opportunities and resources for rural women who are mostly affected by poverty. Over the past 25 years, Faith has worked for leading financial services companies in Africa in senior and executive positions and has acquired a broad range of experience in the areas of private equity, deal making, impact investing, SME funding and development, fund management, Insurance and Corporate & investment Banking. She is a hands-on, results-orientated leader who is also very conscious about the critical and positive role that business can play in transforming and impacting society at large.

Faith is passionate about the social upliftment and economic empowerment of women across South Africa and the African continent and is a strong advocate for women empowerment and inclusive growth for all. She has worked in the areas of women empowerment and impact investing for over 20 years in a number of capacities including partnering and mentoring emerging entrepreneurs, investing in small businesses, governance, providing access to markets to SME’s, advocating for gender transformation on the Boards of listed companies, etc.

Faith has written articles for the likes of the Financial Mail magazine in South Africa and has been interviewed and quoted widely on her views on the importance of inclusive growth and gender parity across business, arts, science and education as a way to address stagnant economic growth, promote inclusive growth and economic justice for women. She believes in mentorship and sharing her knowledge, energy and skills with others and is a mentor and coach to many young professionals and emerging entrepreneurs.

Faith currently is a non-executive director of the JSE-listed Discovery Limited, Transcend Residential Property, Bidvest Limited and the JSE Limited. She also is the Chair of the WDB Growth Fund (an impact private equity fund that support the growth of black and black women owned SME’s) and a member of the Gender Based Violence Fund, a not-for profit fund formed by the private sector with support from the South African President to raise funds to fight gender based violence scourge in South Africa.
In 2017 Faith received the Business Woman of the Year Award (Corporate Category).
She has a BA (Hons) in Economics, Wheaton College, MA, USA; MBA Finance, Bentley Graduate School of Business, MA, USA; HDIP Tax Diploma, UJ; and Executive Leadership Training – Columbia Business School, New York.

Extended version of Faith’s awards / professional memberships, should it be required:
Faith was a finalist at the Standard Bank Top Women Awards 2016. These annual awards honour and applaud outstanding leadership, inspiration, vision and innovation, in organisations that play a role in advancing women to the forefront of the economy.

She is also a recipient of the 2017 Business Woman of the Year Award (Corporate Category) from the Business Women Association of South Africa (BWASA). Business Woman of the Year Awards (BWOYA) awards celebrate and recognise the astute leadership and contribution of South African women who are excelling in various sectors. (including corporate, government, social entrepreneurship, education and science & technology) and showcases the calibre and talent of women in this country.

In May 2017 Faith received an Honorary Doctorate in Laws from Wheaton College in recognition for the work that she is doing in the upliftment of rural women.
Faith is a member of the IWF (SA), a local chapter of an international organisation whose mission is to support the women leaders of today and tomorrow.

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