DSC0575 e1567087936795 300x226As we continue to celebrate women’s month, Walter Sisulu University also celebrates women breaking boundaries and taking up leadership roles in the institution.

For many years, leadership roles were considered a role best played by men; and women an afterthought seen as ‘not strong enough’ or ‘too emotional’ to lead.

However, when the women of 1956 marched the union building to advocate for women’s rights the notion changed and the women’s strength and capabilities were recognised.

Out of Walter Sisulu University’s 15 executive managers, three are female and out of 34 directors and deputy directors 15 of these positions are headed up by women.

Executive director for Student Affairs Zoleka Dotwana, Senior Director for Marketing, Communication and Advancement(MCA) Yonela Tukwayo and Director for Finance, Lazola Cebe share their experiences on life and being in leadership positions at WSU.


Asked about how they balance work and personal life responsibilities, these women all expressed difficulty in being present in all the roles that demand them i.e. being a mother, wife and a leader at work however mentioning that a good support structure is what keeps them going.

Dotwana said it takes a toll on her health as she constantly has to drive around the four campuses to ensure that student affairs are met equally.

“I am barely coping, but the support I get from my family drives me, I have to explain to my grandkids why I am always away from home or locking myself in my room to do work, initially they were not happy but now they are growing up to understand that I have to work on weekends.”

Tukwayo said she finds it difficult to balance the two components as her role demands her availability at all times.

“With the structure of WSU and the amount of work that needs to be done, I struggle to have a good balance between my personal life and work.  My role requires me to be available at all time.”

Cebe says a good support structure and setting clear priorities has helped her maintain a balance between work and life.

“It isn’t easy so you need to plan and understand your own strengths and weaknesses. For home good support in terms of a spouse, extended family and a helper are essential. At work ensuring that my priorities are clear with everyone and sacrifice does not become a norm in terms of time spent is also important to me.”

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Leadership roles are still considered to be roles for men and in some instances it can lead to men being resistant to be led by women.

Tukwayo said she had felt undermined but never took it to heart as she accepted that men had different views to that of women.

“Luckily I have not had many such incidents with staff and colleagues.  What I appreciate about the WSU management team is that this has never been an issue, not once have I ever felt side line or undermined as a female”

“I have been blessed to work with individuals who see beyond gender and colour. Some men may have been raised to view things in a certain light, but I have been privileged that they either saw beyond this or they have not been placed on my path,” said Cebe.

On offering advice to the next generation of women leaders Tukwayo cautioned that women should not try to be men and should stay true to their womanhood and lead with authenticity.

“Women bring a different ideas and different ways of thinking and approaching challenges.  A woman’s voice is necessary for balance,” she said.

“Do not allow circumstance to make you a victim nor your gender an excuse. Find what you are good at and make it your life’s mission to achieve beyond it. Your dreams belong to only you big, or not, follow them,” said Cebe.

Dotwana said it is good to always prepare yourself for a role by fixing your knowledge base and skills set and that women should remember that opportunities to grow present themselves.

“Yours is to identify them and use them to your advantage with hard work at the centre” she said.

By Xolelwa Dwesini