For the past two years, Leonie Andereya has found her footing as an integral part of the Radisson RED family as a Curator and Assistant Curator. She is now taking the reins as a managerial lead for one of the trendiest hotels in Cape Town.What does being a woman in Africa mean to you?
It is very special for me being part of a society of so many strong-willed and opened-minded women. There is a lot I learnt since living in Africa; when it comes to compassion and a kind, holistic approach to your environment. From the day I arrived, I was greeted with an openness and sense of acceptance of who I am. Now, being part of this community, I share the responsibility to live up to this ethos.
With this year being South Africa’s 25th year of democracy, how far do you believe the country has come in empowering women?
Compared to 25 years ago, South Africa has achieved something tremendous — I don’t think anyone can argue with this. I think we can be over critical in our expectations and we tend to overlook all the good that has been done by focusing on the negative only. We cannot ignore that the journey ahead is still long and rocky but with our heads up and smiles on, this is the only way to make this work, and as such, I have no doubt this country is up to something big. Looking at my surroundings, I see women who work as CEOs and CFOs in large cooperations. I see successful businesses run by women and I see more and more diversity in teams. I am a positive person and I think women empowerment is underway, however, I do believe it is a process that can run better, and even faster, than it currently is.
What more do you feel can still be done?
It starts with the culture we create in our companies, on our social media platforms, at schools and in families. It is not the open but underlying discrimination that keeps women from reaching their potential. Women have been stuck in a certain role-model perception that has to be broken down. There are countless examples, all pointing to the same problem of having a society that creates expectations about certain behaviours for women. This is something observed all over the world, not only in Africa. The great news is, this is changing by strong women showing others how it can be done differently. Let’s not wait for someone to do something to empower women — it all starts with us.
What have been the greatest challenges you have faced as a leader, and how have you over-come them?
The greatest challenge to me was letting go; I am my worst enemy and I always question myself — am I doing enough? Am I doing the right thing? I had to learn that everybody goes through this and that being your own worst critic is part of keeping it real. For me, personally, any leader has a massive responsibility that is not only connected to the business they run but to the individuals on their team. Really thinking about this can be quite scary but also exciting. I started to focus on the positives and on the things I can control. I learnt to walk away from toxic people and to not let every-thing affect me personally.
What does achieving the position of Acting GM for Radisson RED mean to you?
It means the world to me. I have worked hard to get here and I always wanted to be a wife, mother and GM showing others that you can do this. However, I would have never been where I am today without the support of my family, especially my husband, my friends and the teams I have worked with. I had some great mentors in my career and always received invaluable guidance and assurance. I would not be here without my team at RED and the support I get from home — I have never taken this for granted.
What do you hope to bring to the brand in this position?
I want to be part of developing the RED culture further. We should never stop evolving, questioning the status quo and daring to do the impossible.
How do you believe society can mobilise change when it comes to upskilling women in the workplace
By changing and challenging the stereotypes. We are a society of social media and this has a massive influence on the next generation of women. Women have to be prepared to go for the big jobs and to set themselves objectives that are as high up as possible. We need to implant this in their mindsets from early on. If this cannot be done at home, the media and schools need to be the advocates of this. I also believe that we need to raise a generation of men that are excited to live on a 50/50 family responsibility module. Women often fall behind once the family planning has started. This is not necessary as it comes back to men changing their perceptions about their roles in families. The advanced structures can be there, the support and upskill development plans can be in place but nothing will be as important as the change in a society’s mindset.
How important is gender empowerment in business, and do you think enough is being done to achieve a more equal work environment?
I think gender empowerment is very important in business and in life. We need to start looking at the benefits of creating diversity in our work environment and at home. A lot is being done but there is always more that can be achieved.