Sonwabise joins us on this segment of Women In Marketing. She is the Senior Manager for Global Policy and Government Affairs at Global Citizen. A trained diplomat, she shared invaluable insights with us which are probably a sneak peek of the three books she has authored. We are definitely buying them once published. Let’s explore her journey
LET’S GET PERSONAL
WHERE WERE YOU BORN? WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR FONDEST MEMORIES?
I was born in Mthatha in the Eastern Cape. Some of my fondest memories were my uncles babysitting me, which always entailed a lesson on music and culture. Till this day, I can never listen to the blues and jazz without it igniting some nostalgia.
SHOW OFF TO OUR READERS. ANY HIDDEN TALENTS YOU CAN SHARE WITH US? A CLARINET STAR IN THE MAKING PERHAPS?
I really can’t pin it down but the one thing I know is that I’m a terrible singer and I never know the lyrics but at any function, I am always the one leading the karaoke.
WE WOULD ALL LOVE TO WIN THE LOTTERY RIGHT? IF YOU WON $10 MILLION TOMORROW, WHAT WOULD YOU DO WITH YOUR FORTUNE?
I’d start a fund for women-owned businesses, pay off bad debt, donate to a cause, buy something for my parents – something of their choice, and invest the rest.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE MEAL? THAT ONE MEAL YOU WOULDN’T SHARE WITH ANYONE!
It’s not a meal but I can never share my strawberries.
WHAT MADE YOU FALL IN LOVE WITH THE WORLD OF MARKETING? WHAT PARTICULAR MOMENT IN TIME PUSHED YOU TO PURSUE THIS CAREER? AFTER ALL, WE ALL WANTED TO BE DOCTORS GROWING UP, RIGHT?
I am a trained Diplomat and one of my favourite parts of my job, when I was a Diplomat, was showcasing the country’s business, tourism and cultural traits – what is referred to in the world of Diplomacy as Public Diplomacy. Over time this evolved as I moved to corporate to an interest in go-to-market strategies with marketing being a key part of that.
IF YOU COULD BE ANY ANIMAL IN THE WORLD, WHAT ANIMAL WOULD YOU BE AND WHY?
I would be a Dolphin. Like Dolphins, I enjoy solving complex problems and I hate mundane tasks. I am also quite social, enjoy strong bonds with my inner circle and I am extremely loyal. Actions count more than words for me and I pay more attention to non-verbal communication than the verbal. I like peace, joy, and calm and I’m never satisfied until I feel I have given back, am fighting for justice and equality and am driving some form of impact.
WHAT’S THE MOST INTERESTING THING ABOUT YOU THAT WE WOULDN’T LEARN FROM YOUR LINKEDIN PROFILE ALONE?
I think my LinkedIn profile makes me seem quite bold but I am low-key quite shy and I hate rejection. For instance, I have written three books but never published them. I am working on this and have given myself a deadline. After all, nothing was ever achieved by letting our fears get the best of us.
ENTERING THE WORKPLACE
GIVE US A SNEAK PEEK OF HOW YOU TYPICALLY START YOUR DAY. ARE YOU #TEAMCOFFEE OR #TEAMTEA? OR BOTH? YOU BEAUTIFUL REBEL!
I am #TeamCoffee.
Don’t try and have a serious conversation with me if I haven’t had a cup of coffee or two. I have however cut down to maximum three cups of coffee a day and I am trying out #TeamTea and I try to have at least one cup of green tea a day.
HOW BEST DO YOU STRIKE A WORK-LIFE BALANCE?
As a mother of two young kids, for me, it’s important to blend the two.
If I need to step away from my laptop to attend to something personal then I do so but I then work back the hours I took for my personal time. I am also fortunate to have worked for companies that understand a blended work-life.
YOU OBTAINED YOUR BACHELOR’S DEGREE IN INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND POLITICAL SCIENCE FROM THE UNIVERSITY OF THE WITWATERSRAND (GIRL YOU FANCY!). ACCORDING TO GLASSDOOR, IT HAS BECOME SEEMINGLY EASIER TO APPLY TO WORK FOR COMPANIES LIKE GOOGLE, APPLE AND STARBUCKS AS THEY DO NOT REQUIRE APPLICANTS TO HAVE A DEGREE. HOW CAN YOUNG WOMEN UTILISE THE INTERNET TO UPSKILL THEMSELVES PARTICULARLY IF THEY CANNOT AFFORD TO OBTAIN A FORMAL EDUCATION?
I am fortunate to have come from a family that found value in ensuring I am educated and could afford to pay for my degree. I do not take this for granted, there are so many young women whose families do not value their education and more so, so many families that cannot afford to take their children to school let alone university.
I think that the Fourth Industrial Revolution presents an opportunity for reskilling and to break the norms of job qualification requirements. According to the World Economic Forum, over 80% of roles will be tech-related and some of them will not require degree qualifications because technology will accelerate the speed of change so much so that by the time you finish a three year Degree, that Degree may be irrelevant.
Unfortunately, currently, women only make up less than 23% of the tech industry. There lies an opportunity for young women to use free training provided by companies such as Cisco, Google, IBM, Microsoft, edX, Coursera etc. to reskill and upskill ourselves and to ensure that we have the skills required by not only the tech industry because most if not all industries will be tech-enabled.
Of the nine provinces in the country, KwaZulu-Natal has the highest number of recorded absentees — with 126,553 children having missed school. https://t.co/aX0QYMaH8z— Global Citizen Africa (@GlblCtznAfrica) November 28, 2020
However, it also requires a corporate culture to change to be able to acquire, retain and grow women in traditionally male-dominated industries. This requires not only to change in policies but also change in human behaviour led at Board and CEO level.
It also requires countries to expedite connectivity so that young women and marginalized communities can also participate in the economy by acquiring technology skills not just for employment but also for business ownership and trading.
JOB HOPPING IS A COMMON PHENOMENA ESPECIALLY IN THE DYNAMIC WORLD OF ADVERTISING AND MARKETING. WHAT’S YOUR OPINION ON JOB HOPPING? DOES IT HURT OR AID ONE’S CAREER?
It depends on your career goals. For instance, if you plan to be the CEO of a certain company, it may be better for you to stay in that company for many years and to build internal stakeholder trust and Board trust in addition to customer acquisition and retention because some companies prefer appointing from their within but of course, there are always exceptions. It may be that you want to be an all-rounder and learn all the traits of the industry and therefore for you, moving between companies makes sense.
For me, the biggest issue is the gender pay gap. Women are still very much underpaid in the industry and most industries and for a woman to be able to increase their salary as their responsibilities increase, as inflation increases etc., they need to leave to go to another company. This is a pity because most of the time, the company is not the issue but the demands in your life require you to decide to leave time and time again.
Women in many countries are unable to enter certain professions, ask for the same pay as men, or receive protections from discrimination and harassment in the workplace. https://t.co/Hk4sb4HPMU— Global Citizen Africa (@GlblCtznAfrica) November 28, 2020
According to the South African Reward Association, South Africa had the world’s highest wage inequality in 2019. Also, men are promoted for their potential while women are promoted for their achievements.
We can never invalidate people’s experiences. I’d like to think that everyone is just doing their best with what they have and what they know at any given point in their careers and lives.
FOR OUR INTERVIEW WITH YAEL TAMAR FROM SOLIDBLOCK, SHE REMARKED THAT WOMEN ARE MOST LIKELY TO OCCUPY THE CMO ROLE AS COMPARED TO THEIR MALE COUNTERPARTS. WITH WOMEN CONTROLLING OVER $20 TRILLION IN GLOBAL SPENDING, WHY HAS IT BECOME INCREASINGLY IMPORTANT TO HAVE FEMALE CMOS IN YOUR OPINION?
For me, it is increasingly important for companies to be diverse and inclusive and not just necessarily for women to occupy CMO roles. Being a woman in business, entrepreneurship or professionally is not an easy task. It comes with so many hurdles that sometimes you feel alone but that is never the case.
According to the Pew Research Centre, women make up 40% of the workforce in more than 80 countries globally. Most surprising is that the top five countries with the highest female representation in the workforce are all in Sub-Saharan Africa. Zimbabwe and Malawi lead the diversity board with more than 50%, Gambia sits at 50.8%, Liberia at 50.6% and Tanzania comes in at 50.5%.
Women are becoming prime candidates for filling the leadership pipeline and C-suite benches that will soon be left lighter by a departing generation of workers, namely the baby boomers that will be retiring in the next few years. And yet, women get less access to the people, input, and opportunities that accelerate careers. As a result, the higher you look in the corporate ladder, the fewer women you see.
This representation can discourage women from seeking advancement and cause them to become complacent with their current position or push them out of an organization or even an industry altogether. Likewise, a lack of gender diversity and inclusion can negatively impact organizations, hindering their talent recruitment, diminishing their leadership pipeline and even impacting their profit margins and share value.
Organisations that do not engage in the active recruitment of women leaders end up losing their middle management talent because these women do not see themselves climbing the corporate ladder in a company or an industry where they are not represented and therefore they go elsewhere to seek employment where their ambitions can be fulfilled.
In driving that diversity and inclusion in organisations, it shouldn’t be a tick box but rather a real transformation agenda including women having voting rights, decision making power, budget controls and to feel like their voice is truly heard and valued in the company and this should be led at Board level.
SYSTEMS AROUND REMOTE WORK AND VIDEO CONFERENCING ARE INCREASINGLY BECOMING STAPLE IN MOST ORGANISATIONS. ACCORDING TO VISUAL CAPITALIST, ZOOM IS NOW WORTH MORE THAN THE 7 BIGGEST AIRLINES IN THE WORLD AT A WHOPPING MARKET CAPITALIZATION OF JUST OVER $40BN. SUFFICE TO SAY, REMOTE WORKING IS AN ASPECT OF MODERN-DAY WORK THAT HAS BEEN LONG OVERDUE. IN YOUR OPINION, WHY HAVE MOST ORGANISATIONS STRUGGLED TO CONVERT TO THIS WAY OF WORK?
This is a complex question and I suspect there are consultants out there who deal with a business transformation that could help respond to it better than I can. It could be many reasons that vary from human behaviour, the company’s management style, operational challenges, connectivity (including infrastructure, data, telephony and devices), and perhaps even issues related to adaptivity, agility and a lack of preparedness for change especially if the change was unpredicted as was COVID-19.
REMOTE WORK HAS COME WITH ITS OWN SET OF CHALLENGES, PARAMOUNT TO THIS IS THE FACT THAT EMPLOYEES ARE NOW ‘ALWAYS ON’ WITH WORK CARRYING OVER EVEN BEYOND WORKING HOURS. IN YOUR OPINION, HOW CAN ORGANISATIONS MANAGE THIS BETTER TO PROTECT THE WELLBEING OF THEIR EMPLOYEES?
Most people are finding it that they are working harder now, working remotely, compared to when we used to drive to the office and clocked office hours. There is an expectation that when working from home you are always available.
Organisations need to understand their employees’ productivity cycles and part of understanding productivity cycles is also understanding when and how to give your employees personal days, mental health support and to keep them connected to the rest of the organisation even if they are sitting alone at home for hours on end.
The solution differs from company to company depending on their culture, for instance, companies such as Cisco have given their employees Fridays off as part of their internal wellness drive and between July – August, Global Citizen gave their employees a cool-off period for personal time off.
Some companies are also encouraging their employees to take advantage of being able to work from anywhere and to travel to different holiday locations and work from there to avoid the claustrophobia and anxiety that may be caused from always being at home.
MARKETING OBJECTIVES WILL MOST LIKELY CHANGE DUE TO THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC. HOW HAS YOUR ORGANISATION PIVOTED WHERE MARKETING IS CONCERNED, AND HOW IMPORTANT IS IT TO HAVE A DIGITAL MARKETING STRATEGY AMID THE PANDEMIC?
Global Citizen has always used a pop and policy collaboration intending to end extreme poverty by 2030.
The organisation is well known for its use of internationally renowned festivals to drive policy changes. You may recall the success of the Mandela 100 festival held in South Africa in 2018. With the impact of COVID-19, we have had to pivot to online festivals with our first being the One World – Together At World where we raised funds for frontline workers in April 2020 and the second being Global Goal: Unite For Our Future event in June 2020 where we raised funds for the ACT-Accelerator to drive equal access for tests, treatments and vaccines for all and both of these were agile responses to COVID-19.
⭕️We’re LIVE! @FallonTonight, @JimmyKimmelLive, and @StephenAtHome are kicking off One World: #TogetherAtHome in support of the @WHO and health care workers on the frontlines of the #COVID19 pandemic. https://t.co/mJbSMm0gH2👇 https://t.co/36BdVQzC4b— Global Citizen Africa (@GlblCtznAfrica) April 18, 2020
Also, most recently we held impactful conversations on the sidelines of the United National General Assembly with a focus on rebuilding. Also, while as before global citizens could take actions and get a chance to win festival tickets, we now have had to work with our Rewards Partners to creatively come up with Rewards that do not involve in-person attendants. In addition to tech, marketing is an industry that is always evolving.
As marketers, we always could act quickly to assess market trends and either drive the trends, preempt the trends or respond on time and have also always had the ability to make rapid decisions and reduce waste by removing uncertainty and although COVID-19 was a first for all of us, these principles remained.
BCG PUBLISHED ITS INNOVATION REPORT FOR 2020 AND AT THE CORE OF ITS SELECTION CRITERIA ARE COMPANIES THAT HAVE SUCCESSFULLY MARRIED ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE IN THEIR PRODUCTS AND SERVICES. ACCORDING TO YOU, WHAT MAKES SOMETHING INNOVATIVE? HOW DO YOU DEFINE INNOVATION AT Global Citizen?
Innovation for me is the process of turning an idea into a product or service that will be of value for customers and something they would pay for. At Global Citizen, our innovation is largely focused on how we use our networks and access to leaders, influencers, artists, civil society and markets to drive the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and ensure that we reach our mission which is to end extreme poverty by 2030.
AT THE TIME OF PUBLISHING, THE DIGITAL MARKETING INSTITUTE ESTIMATED THAT THE INFLUENCER MARKETING INDUSTRY WILL HIT THE $10BN MARK BY 2020. WHETHER B2B OR B2C, IT’S EVIDENT THAT BRANDS AND ORGANISATIONS HAVE HAD THEIR SUCCESS WITH THIS MODEL OF MARKETING. HOW WILL THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC AFFECT THIS INDUSTRY GOING FORWARD AND DO YOU BELIEVE THERE IS STILL A PLACE FOR INFLUENCER MARKETING?
More and more there is growing evidence for the industry to diversify and to become more inclusive to drive creativity that is not harmful, ignorant and dismissive to the experiences of various customers.
Customers are becoming more and more active citizenship focused and understanding their different voices while still being genuine to your client’s brand and voice is crucial and this can only be done well in diverse and inclusive settings and this includes picking whether or not influencer marketing is relevant for your client and if so, deciding the right match.
ANY RECENT/UPCOMING INFLUENCER MARKETING CAMPAIGNS YOU WOULD LIKE TO SHARE FROM Global Citizen?
In South Africa, Global Citizen is continuing to grow its regional movement following the incredible impact of the 2018 Mandela 100 inaugural campaign. Currently we are mobilising Global Citizens that are engaged in driving change on core issues that are pertinent to our region through a campaign focused on Gender Equality as a core driver of the eradication of extreme poverty.
The overarching focus of this campaign is underpinned on seeking equity, justice and inclusion through the lens of gender equality in South Africa and working with corporates, artists, influencers, advocates, government and philanthropists. Building on our advocacy during Women’s Month in August 2020, our campaign will lead up to the 16 Days of Activism of No Violence Against Women and Children.
WHAT HAVE BEEN SOME OF Global Citizen BIGGEST SUCCESSES IN MARKETING OVER THE PAST 12 TO 18 MONTHS?
In June 2020, we hosted the Global Goal: Unite For Our Future digital Summit and concert under the patronage of the European Commission where we raised funds for the ACT-Accelerator to drive equal access for tests, treatments and vaccines for all and both of these were agile responses to COVID-19.
The #GlobalGoalUnite Concert is LIVE, hosted by Dwayne @therock Johnson! Tune in to watch artists, comedians, activists, and more come together to support equal access to COVID-19 aid for everyone, everywhere. Join us and let’s unite for a better future: https://t.co/qDeQyob8r8— Global Citizen Africa (@GlblCtznAfrica) June 27, 2020
We raised $5.4 billion in loans and guarantees and $1.5 billion in cash grants including policy support from the President of South Africa and Chair of the Africa Union in support of the ACT-Accelerator, H.E. Cyril Ramaphosa and a $25 million commitment from ECOWAS to assist West African countries to respond to COVID-19.
2020 AND BEYOND
WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?
I am currently reading ‘The Social Animal’ by David Brooks and the recently gazetted 4IR policy. I am an old soul and therefore I prefer hardcopy but I have had to evolve to e-readers over time.
WHAT IS ON YOUR NETFLIX WATCHLIST?
I am currently watching a series called Peaky Blinders and a documentary called The Social Dilemma.
AS WE LEARN TO LIVE WITH COVID19 IF YOU COULD REPLACE THE HANDSHAKE AS A FORM OF GREETING, WHAT INTERESTING NEW GREETING WOULD YOU INTRODUCE?
Well, I am fine with the elbow greeting, a former colleague of mine and I have been greeting each other in this way for years now.
WHO HAVEN’T YOU SEEN OR TALKED TO IN A LONG TIME AND HOPE THEY ARE DOING OKAY?
I spoke to them recently but I miss my grandmothers terribly. I have been paranoid about visiting them, I guess I took the World Health Organisation’s COVID-19 cautions to heart.
A UNIQUE MESSAGE FOR ALL YOUNG PROFESSIONALS IN THE MARKETING INDUSTRY
You are never alone, there’s always a wo(man) who is experiencing or has experienced what you are going through. Speak up.
If someone is not in your arena, you have no business listening to their opinion.
Lift other wo(men) as you rise.
Don’t stop learning and unlearning.
Get a mentor and a sponsor.
IF YOU COULD GO BACK IN TIME, WHAT WOULD YOU TELL YOUR YOUNGER SELF?
Do it despite your fears, get married after 30, you deserve better, forgive and let go quicker, always prioritise your peace, save and invest more, and baby girl you are so worth it.
WHAT CHALLENGE IS ON YOUR PLATE?
I am at a point of pivot in both my personal and professional life and I am trying to remain patient throughout the process.
WE ARE ALWAYS LOOKING FOR AWESOME WOMEN IN MARKETING TO PROFILE. WHO WOULD YOU LIKE US TO INTERVIEW IN FUTURE?
Inga Sebata, Magna Carta
Rene Basson, Refinitiv
Keketso Sedibe, Refinitiv
Michelle Deavel, FTI Consulting
Janice McFadyen, Refinitiv
Athi Geleba, Presidency
Nthabi Dlamini, Media Development and Diversity Agency
ANY BUCKET LIST ITEMS?
In the near term to publish my books (professional) and to summit Mount Kilimanjaro (personal).
WHO ARE SOME OF YOUR FEMALE HEROES?
The list is endless as I am inspired by so many women from all walks of life. My very first one is my mother, her fighting for herself and choosing herself has led me to do the same over and over again.
HOW CAN PEOPLE FOLLOW YOU ON SOCIAL MEDIA?
Linkedin: Sonwabise Sebata