Can you share a little bit about what it is that you do and what a typical day for you is like? 

I’m the Executive Cluster Manager for Health at the CSIR. My role involves driving the strategic direction of the Cluster, with a specific focus on ensuring the offerings are aligned with industry trends. Secondly business development is key part of my day where I engage various stakeholders to support the team in securing funding for the R&D we do and lastly my day is filled with engaging my team, colleagues in various formats. One can also not run away from the admin that being in the role brings.

Can you tell us about your leadership at CSIR (as Executive Director) and some of the initiatives you led?

In the role, one not only drives that cluster strategy but also significantly contributes with the CSIR strategy. Being a leader in the sector, I’m also very often asked to contribute to National and Africa wide strategies.

Did you always aspire to reach a leadership role in your career? 

Not necessarily an aspiration. I’ve always had a strength in leadership and this was demonstrated by being a Prefect at School, Head of Culture at the University residence etc. Thus, I’ve always known that have a natural strength to lead in whatever sphere I operate in.

What are, from your perspective, the biggest challenges for women in leadership roles? 

The main challenge is accepting that as women we are different. We are not men, we should not strive to be like them, but chart our leadership path, style and impact. Once we accept this, it will be relatively easier to fight the battle of salary discrepancies, not being given a platform and having to prove ourselves.

In your opinion is there a difference between how men and women plan to progress in their careers? 

Indeed. As women, we sometimes get to a point in our careers where our families come first and one can no longer work the long crazy hours and sacrifice family for work. This is where women may be perceived to slack versus as an opportunity to create a different working arrangement for women. 

Have you encountered any gender specific challenges or obstacles in your career? 

Not quite. I’m very assertive and have managed to ensure that my colleagues know where I stand and where required I can negotiate with my leaders.

What advice do you have for women interested in leadership roles? 

Know your strengths and ensure that you build on this. Be true to yourself and always operate with integrity.

Fun fact about you?

I like singing but my voice is not for many to hear.

What can the delegates at She’s a Boss – Women in Tech expect from you? 

A frank conversation about being women in science leadership. 

In few lines, please state the importance of such a platform for women? 

Women need such platforms because this is where one can be challenged, be explored to various role models and also network.  Broadening one’s network is critical to their career growth.

Join Boitumelo Semete-Makokothela at She’s a Boss – Women in Tech 2019 in September. Register here.

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