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The authority on gender empowerment in business for nearly 20 years.

Resolute and resilient: Thandeka Goba, Standard Bank Group Head: Corporate Legal

Written by Staff Writer

August 22, 2023

Thandeka Goba is a highly accomplished lawyer who has navigated her career journey with determination and resilience. She began her career in legal practice before transitioning into the corporate world, where she ultimately found her place at Standard Bank. Throughout her career, Thandeka has demonstrated a strong belief in rising above the noise and breaking through the barriers that face women and marginalised groups, all this while raising two, young energetic boys.

Rising above the noise

For Thandeka, rising above the noise means understanding and challenging the societal and professional barriers that exist for black women. She recognises the importance of not being apologetic about one’s worth and demanding a seat at the corporate table. Thandeka is a firm believer in demonstrating that women are equally capable of achieving success and setting an example for others, especially the girl child. She emphasises the need for a clear sense of purpose, unwavering commitment, and resilience in the face of challenges.

“You need to have a very defined sense of purpose and pursue that with a relentless, committed passion, focusing on your goals, being resilient in the face of challenges, and having a never-give-up mentality or attitude. It helps to have an accountability partner who can guide you and who’s achieved success and can share their own experiences on how they overcame barriers.”

Thandeka has been inspired by senior leaders who stood their ground and made tough decisions without concern for popularity. She admires their self-confidence, principled approach, and the ability to rise above the noise. Their examples have shaped her own leadership style and taught her the importance of standing firm in the face of challenges.

Vulnerability and empathy

Vulnerability and empathy are essential qualities that Thandeka believes play a crucial role in effective leadership. She understands that leaders who embrace vulnerability can foster trust, open communication, collaboration, and ultimately unlock their team’s potential. Thandeka has demonstrated these qualities in her own leadership style by being empathetic and understanding towards her team, creating an environment of collaboration and shared goals.

“Being vulnerable and empathetic to the people around you and truly understanding where they are coming from engenders a greater sense of collaboration and leads to increased productivity—a feeling of we’re working towards a shared goal and achievement, as opposed to we’re just here to do a job.”

Advice to young women

When reflecting on her own journey, Thandeka advises her younger self to trust her instincts and commit to seizing opportunities. She encourages young women to have a clear sense of purpose aligned with their goals and to cultivate a strong network of mentors and accountability partners who can provide guidance and support.

“The advice I would give to my younger self would be to trust yourself more and to commit, do not be afraid to enter in the doors that have been opened for you, and to remember that you have a responsibility to one day be the person opening the doors for those who are still to come. You need to be clear on what it is that you’re trying to achieve and make sure that whatever you do is aligned to that purpose.”

On empowered workplaces

Thandeka is passionate about breaking down barriers that prevent women from participating in the economy. As a Standard Banker, she emphasises the need to support and empower female-led businesses through practical business assistance, access to finance, mentorship, and creating an enabling environment.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, she acknowledges the importance of organisations adapting and supporting their employees.

Standard Bank has prioritised employee well-being by offering hybrid working options, flexible arrangements, and focusing on digitisation and future-ready skills.

Thandeka has personally witnessed the benefits of empowering women in organisations, including enhanced creativity, innovation, and effective leadership. She believes that organisations can further support women’s professional development by embracing diversity and inclusion, creating development plans, mentorship programmes, and internships that enable individuals to acquire new skills and excel in their careers.

“Mentorship and sponsorship are crucial to any career, whether you intend to be a specialist or a leader. What you’re trying to achieve is to create a place of safety and support, as well as open an individual’s mind up to different ways of thinking about situations as they arise. Formal and informal mentorship programmes allow a person to grow on their own terms.”

Overcoming challenges

Thandeka understands the challenges of being a woman in a leadership position, including feelings of not belonging and the pressure to overcompensate. However, she believes that a more diverse and empowered organisation can create a sense of comfort and unlock the talents of individuals who can relate to and resonate with the leadership. Thandeka advocates for having tough conversations, measuring diversity and inclusion, and aligning recruitment and development processes with the goal of creating a more inclusive and equitable workplace.

“When I started my career, the leaders that I saw around me were all men and it’s been an amazing journey to watch how the composition of various forums have really shifted, both internally and with other stakeholders that we engage with. It’s very encouraging to know that the focus is on ensuring that diversity is achieved and that opportunities are created that are based on engagement

This article first appeared in the 18th edition of the Standard Bank Top Women Leaders publication. Read it here:


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