In South Africa, August is Women’s Month, providing an opportunity to pay tribute to the strength and resilience of women and their contribution to society and the country. Meet six of the Super Women who keep RX Africa on track, and disrupt the status quo with innovative thinking as they go.  

Carol Weaving  

Managing Director, RX Africa 

THE DETERMINATION OF A COURAGEOUS WOMAN 

With more than 33 years of experience across several diverse industry sectors, Carol Weaving’s expertise spans marketing, exhibition management, events, conferences and venue and facility management.  

To get to know the Carol who leads from the front and drives the growth of other strong, competent women, we need to see the determination behind the title as she climbed every rung of the ladder to her current position. 

“I have always had a passion for developing a concept and seeing it come to life in the form of a live event, bringing with it real business or joy on the faces of the attendees at consumer functions. 

“At times in my career I’ve been told, ‘You’re a woman, you can never go any further in this organisation’. I left and started my own business. Then, ‘Shouldn’t you be at home raising a family?’.  Fortunately, I never allowed others to undermine my tenacity and am delighted you won’t find anyone in our organisation saying things like that today.” 

Carol is acutely aware that too few companies and organisations have addressed the gender gap and that women are still required to prove themselves “better” than their male counterparts, “to still earn less”. Her advice: “Do what you do best, no excuses, and you’ll set yourself up for success. Balance work and family time, and make sure that you and your partner share in all the family responsibilities.” 

Asked what advice she’d give to women seeking a career in exhibitions and events, Carol notes that it’s not for the faint hearted. “There are late nights and weekends where we work hard and play equally hard. It is one of the most stressful industries I know – but also the most rewarding.” 

What trait should women strive to embrace? “A love of change. It is the only constant and something we should not just accept but learn to love. See it as exciting, new and fresh – a possible adventure that often only comes with change.” 

A final comment for Women’s Month? “Be brave, be bold, be determined. Do not let prophets of doom make you second guess yourself. Surround yourself with talent and be someone who uplifts others.” 

Helen van Tonder  

Hosted Buyer Executive and Database Team Leader for Travel, Tourism and Creative Industries 

WHEN LESSONS ARE LIFE’S 5-STAR SAFARI 

I love engaging with top international buyers from the Travel Industry worldwide which in turn builds and promotes tourism on the African continent,” says Helen. “Having the opportunity to work on FAME Week Africa (Film Arts Media and Entertainment) has given me the chance to learn about industries that I previously had not worked in and revel in the creativity of the people in it. 

“The highlights in my career include the chance to travel the world as a Sales and Marketing Manager promoting various safari destinations to the travel industry worldwide; and working at RX Africa, where we constantly learn new skills and have the opportunity to make a difference to our industry.” 

Helen notes that working in a female-driven company helped her realise her worth as an employee. “Women are so multi-talented and have amazing perspective and ability. 

“The most important lesson I have learned in my career is never to judge a person on their appearance, but to respect everyone and to treat them as if they are the most important person you have ever met. 

“One person whose initial appearance belied his magnificence turned out to be one of our biggest suppliers at the 5 Star luxury safari lodge where I was Sales and Marketing Manager. I am forever grateful that I treated him respectfully.” 

Women who change their world are changing ours, says Helen, noting “Hillary Clinton for her fortitude; suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst for opening the way for women worldwide to find their true value back in 1913; German Chancellor Angela Merkel because she is an example of a leader without a smidgeon of corruption darkening her image; and our Managing Director Carol Weaving, a real force in our industry and the most positive person I have ever met; an example of what can be achieved if you work hard enough.” 

What would Helen like to see in the next year? “The world to return again – not as the old world, but as a new fully inclusive, kinder, and motivated world so that we can host great events and begin to network and rebuild.” 

Ishana Hiralal 

Bookkeeper, RX Africa 

PRIDE IN BEING AN ACCOUNTABLE WOMAN 

Ishana is one of those rare souls who is not only good at accounts and reconciling, she loves it! 

Career highlights, she says, include completing her SAIPA Articles, but also having the courage and drive to relocate from KwaZulu-Natal to take up her current role in Gauteng. 

Not just in Women’s Month but every day, Ishana says working for the women-driven RX Africa “makes me feel proud”.  

The most important lesson she’s learned in her career so far? “Get a job you enjoy and maintain a healthy work-life balance. Keep learning – I’m looking forward to achieving my SAIPA qualification in the next year,” she says. 

Other female leaders Ishana admires include the author J.K Rowling, whom she sees as “an inspirational leader who rose above all odds, while still maintaining her humble roots”. 

Josephine Sekwelenkwe  

Admin Manager and PA to Portfolio Director: Lifestyle, Design & Retail  

EMPOWERMENT AMONG CREATIVE, DIVERSE WOMEN 

“It is so empowering working in an environment packed with talented, passionate and inspiring women from different backgrounds, all with remarkable experiences,” says Josephine. 

Holding an admin-intensive position, she says she loves working in a busy, deadline driven environment; solving problems on the go, dealing with confidential and sensitive information and the demand of high attention to detail that comes with it all. 

“I love that my position allows me to work with everyone within the team and a lot of people across the company.” 

So, what have the highlights and challenges in Josephine’s career been so far? “Finishing-up an exhibition build-up; feeling a sense of achievement when we are up against a deadline as a team and we only have one shot to get it right – and it turns out even better than we could have ever envisioned.” 

The most important lesson Josephine has learned in her career to date. “There is so much power and success in teamwork.” 

This Women’s Month, her thoughts go to one exceptional leader: Mamokgethi Phakeng, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cape Town (UCT). 

“She is smart, intelligent, outspoken and a fearless black woman; one of only two black women to take on the position of vice-chancellor at Africa’s number one ranked tertiary institution, UCT. 

“Professor Phakeng is the first black woman to earn her PhD in mathematics education. She is also a founder and chairperson of Adopt-a-Learner, an initiative geared towards encouraging black pupils and schools to recognise excellence in mathematics and science by awarding annual scholarships to exceptional students from underprivileged backgrounds. 

“Leadership such as hers is inspiring and offers hope for every woman to make a difference to the world.” 

What’s on Josephine’s agenda to accomplish in the next year? “I would like to take-up a counselling course, as I would like to volunteer my time and take part in affecting lives of other human beings, giving hope when people feel hopeless, especially those who are underprivileged.” 

On the light side, a fun fact about Josephine: “I love ice cream. Now, instead of buying I make my own fruit packed popsicles. Yes, even now in winter! The trick is to sit in the sun and soak up vitamin D while enjoying iced vitamin C.” 

Penny Fraser 

Sales Manager: Travel, Tourism and Creative Industries Portfolio  

MEETING CHALLENGES AND DELIGHT AROUND THE WORLD 

“Being able to interact and work with some of the top hospitality and arts organisations in the world and selling what our beautiful country has to offer the world are among my top career highlights,” says Penny. 

“Challenges include coming up against negative publicity South Africa sometimes has to deal with; but highlights would be that this industry has afforded me the opportunity to travel the world as well as our beautiful country.” 

How does Penny feel about working in such a female driven company? “It is supportive, inspirational and focused, empowering all staff to seek and take advantage of opportunities.” 

The most important lesson learned in her career to date, she says, is “to be adaptable to change – in all senses of the word”. 

Penny’s top choice for a female leader she admires this Women’s Month. “Michelle Obama, for her strength, poise and charisma.” 

One thing she’d like to accomplish in the year ahead is probably on the minds of the RX staff globally: “To be able to travel again and meet up with my colleagues at our live shows.” 

A personal challenge she’s met? “I hate open water swimming but entered and completed my first Torpedo Swim/Run last year just prior to lockdown. As much as I enjoyed it and the challenge, I am not sure you will catch me doing that again… but I am up for a baking challenge in the near future.” 

Sandy Edwards 

Senior Customer Relationship Executive: Lifestyle, Design & Retail Portfolio  

RECIPE FOR FULFILLMENT: LISTEN, GUIDE, TEACH  

What Sandy enjoys most about her position at RX Africa is working towards the end goals, with the support of a team of highly driven individuals, she says. 

“Highlights of my career have included playing an integral part in the start-up of telecommunications giant MTN in 1994, and joining the high profile and leader in the events industry, RX (Reed Exhibitions), in 2020. 

“Challenges centre mainly around conducting business in a changed world over the 18 months,” she says. “But adapt, we have.” 

Asked how it feels to work in such a female driven company, Sandy responds: “Dynamic to say the least,” adding that the most important lesson she’s learned in her career to date is, “Never assume. Listen. Guide. Teach.”  

The woman Sandy highlights this Women’s Month is one much admired around the world: “Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand. I admire her for her calm and effective leadership and her strength in her decisive decision making.” 

So, what would she most like to accomplish this year? “The resumption and successful execution of our RX Africa’s live events for 2022.”  On a personal note, Sandy says: “La vita è bella! Life is beautiful, as my Mama is Italian, so big fat family alfresco lunches and cooking experiments are always the order of the day.”