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Sanlam, empowering women employees to embrace that slasher life

How do you encourage innovative thinking in employees? You let them live that ‘slasher life’! Shameemah Fayker, Senior Manager of Group Human Resources at Sanlam, is a big advocate of giving staff the space and support to pursue their passions. “We value diversity in our employees, particularly their contribution to innovative and creative thinking. Encouraging side careers helps enhance their work experiences.”

She says Sanlam actively hires self-starters who exhibit entrepreneurial flair and embrace accountability. Slashers frequently fit the profile and can transfer the skills they accrue through this agile culture to their own endeavours.

As well as an inclusive culture, supportive slasher workspaces should be flexible, with strong emphasis on balance. Fayker also thinks employers who hire slashers can support their development by complementing the natural flair with exposure to the formality and dynamism in corporate companies. “Special projects undertaken by business unit or even multiple divisions represent a space where slashers can be creative to address a business problem, while leveraging the structure and stability a corporate environment provides. It’s an exciting way for slashers to leverage their personality and background, while realizing more than one occupational identity.”

This Women’s Month, some of Sanlam’s dynamic ladies share how they think corporates can support women having side gigs/side careers:

Rachma Ismail, full-time Credit Analyst, part-time placement angel:

RISE – the Rachma Ismail Social Empowerment Initiative – is the potential name for Ismael’s NGO she’s hoping to register this year. Passionate about giving women the chance to RISE through viable employment opportunities, she regularly sends out job vacancies to her distribution lists. That’s her savvy passion project she does in addition to her normal job, which has placed eight people in various jobs in eight years. A worthwhile contribution given SA’s 29% unemployment rate. As well as vacancies, she also sends alerts about graduation recruitment programmes, bursaries, learnerships and scholarships.

She does it to ‘pay it forward’. Her lists comprise people she met during varsity, women leadership programmes and exchange programmes, primarily through the Association of South African Black Actuarial Professionals (ASABA). Three years ago, ASABA and Sanlam sponsored her to complete an advanced certificate in emerging markets in New York. She made great contacts through that experience, and through the Sanlam Investments Young Professionals Network she helped found. She regularly sends scholarship opportunities to these young people.

She says it takes up a lot of time. “But if you’re passionate about something, you put in the hours. Women need to build each other up.” She believes corporates can help ‘slasher staff’ primarily through exposure, “It would be amazing if there was an online database of team members’ side hustles.”

Lebo Sekgabi, full-time relationship manager, part-time mentor extraordinaire

How do you show a young girl who wants to be an astrophysicist that she’s got all the potential to reach for the stars? Pair her with a woman astrophysicist mentor! That’s exactly what Lebo Sekgabi – Sanlam’s Relationship Manager – wants to do with the NPO she’s planning to register this year, as a birthday gift to herself.

Passionate about giving girls the mentorship opportunities she never had, Sekgabi spends every second Saturday back in her hometown in Mpumalanga, mentoring the kids in her old school. One Saturday, she did an exercise with them based on her own “aha moment of self-actualisation” when she participated in Sanlam’s Graduate Programme. She asked the kids to write down their vision for their school experience. From this, she created a vision statement she printed for every child. That was a transcendental moment where young people recognised their capacity to shape their futures.

For Sekgabi, that’s what it’s about. She says corporates can help women social entrepreneurs with their ventures by offering flexitime and sponsorship. And her advice for women? Negotiate more! “We need to recognise the power of negotiation and the power of speaking out.”

Leigh Solomon, fulltime Product Development Support & Underwriting.  part-time handbag ‘gifter’ and event planner

It all started with a handbag. Solomon’s aunt started a family tradition for Women’s Day, whereby family members and friends donate handbags filled with sanitary products to gift to different women’s charities. Solomon has been part of the initiative ever since. That’s side “hustle” number one.  Side “hustle” two is Solomon’s recently founded event planning business, which she’s in the process of officially registering. This business started in 2014 and since then she’s planned weddings, baby showers and more.

Doing it all isn’t easy. Solomon’s learned a lot of the skills she now relies on as part of Sanlam’s Future Leaders programme in 2017. “We did personality profiling… It shows you your skills and areas to grow in. I’m good at planning, but I needed to work on empathy. This helped shape the person I am today. It moulded how I handle myself when I relate to my clients, at Sanlam and as part of my event business.”

What would be a gamechanger for this gamechanger? “More flexitime and work from home opportunities. And more exposure at my fulltime job, for my part-time work.” And her advice for other women entrepreneurs? “Do research and follow your dreams…You don’t always need big capital to get started.”

Nokulunga Qwela, full-time Business Intelligence Scrum Master, part-time placement queen

Qwela started a placement agency in January 2019 which has already won its first contract. Realising she was “always finding jobs for friends”, she extended her passion into a business, in partnership with her first manager at Sanlam, who is equally excited by entrepreneurship.

She says many of the lessons she’s learned originated from the Sanlam Future Leaders Development Programme, “One of the exciting things we did was visit different township businesses. It opened my eyes that you can pursue an idea that might not be perfect. It’s about taking the opportunity.”

She says corporates can accommodate slashers by offering opportunities to upskill in entrepreneurial thinking. And her advice for other women wanting to do it all? “Push forwards. I’ve noticed people often have ideas, but they’re too scared to pursue these and leave the comfort zone. Believe in yourself and don’t settle for less.”

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