EXPERTS believe that companies with women directors deal more effectively with risk. Not only do they better address the concerns of customers, employees, shareholders and local community, they also tend to focus on long-term priorities. Malala Matomala, the founder of Proxy Board Services also believes this notion and has embarked on a project – Women on Boards, to amongst others disseminate information and equip women with relevant skills to serve on boards.
Give us a snapshot of who you are?
I’m a very traditional girl. Born second in a family of seven girls and one boy. I attended my primary schooling between Nakabolelwa and Izimwe Primary Schools. Then as tradition in the family; I was sent to the famous catholic mission, Kizito College, living in a girls ‘only boarding school. However, I graduated high school with matric exemption at Rosebank House in Cape Town. I further attended University of Cape Town, with a bursary from the Bank of Namibia.
Briefly tell us about your upbringing?
I was born in the eastern part of the Zambezi region, in Ihaha in Kabbe South constituency. I grew up in the village with my paternal grandmother, while my parents worked in Katima. As a child, my grandmother was the role model. I learned to be fearless from my grandmother and realised my potential in my interaction with my dad. He was hardworking, kind, accommodating and inspirational. My mother imparted humility, love and kindness to me. She is patient, soft and respectful to an extent that I didn’t understand her until I was much older.
Tell us about the establishment of Proxy Board Services?
Proxy Board Services was established in 2010, the same year I lost my job with the Media Institute of Southern Africa Regional Secretariat. I had registered my company earlier that year hoping to run it on a part time basis but without a job it became my only hope for a job, overnight. My board experience was complimented by a professional development programme in corporate governance. In addition, was my over 10 years’ experience as a personal assistant and administrator in various international organisations.
I also believed they were companies which couldn’t afford hefty pricing of big corporates in providing Board Secretarial Services. Firstly, due to the global financial meltdown, corporate governance was becoming a buzzword and companies were paying attention. Secondly, in Namibia, the SME sector was encouraged and supported by the government; thirdly, my job situation, and all that translated into an opportunity.
What are challenges and opportunities facing the company?
In the beginning the company faced funding issues like other businesses today. Also, clients before seemed not to understand our core business because it was probably the first time a young black woman ventured in the areas you find only big corporates as service providers. I am no match to them but I saw my company as an alternative for companies looking to reduce costs for non-essential services.
Capacity development remains a huge challenge in the industry itself. I had to teach myself to be proactive and approach clients with issues I could assist with and align my service provision to their internal governance activities. Other opportunities we foresee lie in collaboration with local institutions valuing governance as a way to sustainable business instead of just spelling the word ‘governance’ correctly in annual reports when it is non-existent in practice.
What triggered the project Women on Boards?
Women on Boards was one of the initial business units from the company inception. Every two years, or so, we choose to introduce a new business unit from the core business identified before. Proxy Board Services has various function areas:-
1) Board Services – is the provision of Board administration to companies, NGOs, SMEs, etc
2) The Board Report – an industry magazine on issues of corporate governance in Namibia, profile newly appointed Board members, etc. The magazine is currently undergoing a rebranding exercise for a new look and feel; it was started in 2013.
3) Director Lifestyle (DL) – is a gifting service for board members. It aims to support busy company secretaries to service directors with tokens of appreciation by marking birthdays, celebrating new appointments, sharing the spirit of Xmas and New Year greetings, among others.
4) Boardroom Pride – is a social investment arm to share our services with others. Here we donate small monies to participate in education and community development; volunteer to teach small community projects the importance of governance to their cause; such as how to draft and record meetings, prepare an agenda, and sponsorship letters.
5) Therefore, Women on Boards is part of the Director Development programme. Director development is where we run a series of events to promote corporate governance principles. Once a year, we host The Chairman’s breakfast and the Non-Executive Director seminar.
The activation of the Women on Boards project was inspired by current events in corporate governance; talks on gender diversity at board level and the continuous debate on women in leadership positions, across sectors, globally. The Government has clearly taken a stance to include women in leadership and called for qualified women to join boards of public institutions.
6) Boards-Going-Green project is an environmental sustainability project, which we hope to launch in 2017, with the right funding and strategic partners. It is one of our huge projects and the most exciting as it cuts across all our business units.
What is your general take on the pool of women on boards in various industries?
It is still a disturbing situation but I would like to believe it will change for the better. I say so because of the Government’s open encouragement spearheaded by the Ministry of Gender and Child Welfare, for qualified women to apply and participate on public boards. However, the private sector should do the same, we would like to see efforts like Bank Windhoek’s appointment of Ms Baronice Hans.
Women who are appointed into board positions should focus on transformation within those companies they serve. I believe it’s a board’s responsibility to make sure there are competent individuals lined up to take over from those that get promoted, resign, or fired. Women in middle management positions need support for capacity development in governance to build a pool of reliable skills for management, leadership including board appointments, among women.
Women who are already there need to bring on board others with them. It is commonly known women would rather be alone at the top than bring another woman alongside them. Truth be told that this is very real in Namibian boardrooms, women team up to lock out fellow women because they may shine brighter than them.
What advice would you give to girls, fellow women?
Little girls start by believing in yourselves, in your abilities and your dreams. If you want to be a doctor, start early by understanding what it takes to be one. Remember, you can become a doctor in medicine, law, psychology, history, geography, etc. Don’t think because you like history you cannot be a doctor, you can. Fellow women stand together. Independent thinking help defines you from the group. Find women in your community, profession, company to mentor, sponsor, share the transfer of skills and encourage for growth.
What do you do for a little fun?
I enjoy a sweet rose wine glass or two with friends. Hit the club for a dance session or road trip with family. Travel is utmost downtime because I can read for hours. Retail therapy, being in a mall also relaxes me. Don’t forget a gossip session about boys with mom when I am at the village.
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015