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Topco Media & Standard Bank Top Women: A tribute to women’s empowerment and leadership

Topco Media & Standard Bank Top Women: A tribute to women's empowerment and leadership

Written by Staff Writer

May 17, 2021


Empowering women in Africa

At Topco Media, we value the best business practices, empowerment of women and innovation and inclusivity across all fields of expertise. One of our main goals as an organisation is to assist companies in their efforts to address gender gaps and improve diversification and equality within their business – enhancing business culture and overall employee morale. “It not only makes sound business sense – it is the right thing to do” – Sim Tshabalala, Chief Executive of the Standard Bank Group.

Our journey towards gender empowerment spans more than 20 years, as we’ve collaborated with top industry experts and policy makers to find meaningful solutions to uplift women across Africa. Our Standard Bank Top Women Leaders platform, certifications, awards and publication have been but only a few ways that we’ve made a positive impact on the lives of women in business and beyond, cultivating a better future for the African continent, and strengthening the overall economy.


A tribute to Top Women Leaders 

In the Standard Bank Top Women Leaders 16th publication, we dedicated the edition to paying homage to 16 women — with whom we have worked closely — who have overcome many hurdles along the way, and represent our values at the highest level, achieving success in their respective fields, and inspiring and mentoring others to continue their legacies.

Many of the icons featured in the 16th edition have attended Topco’s annual Standard Bank Top Women Conferences and Awards in previous years, with the majority of them winning in a variety of Standard Bank Top Women awards categories and gracing the cover of our publication. Some have also previously been selected as esteemed judges and keynote speakers at our annual events. 

We are truly honoured to have had the opportunity to work with these award-winning women leaders, and look forward to many more years of working towards addressing gender parity and achieving gender peace in Africa. 

Here are our 16 icons that we’re paying tribute to o the cover of our recent Standard Bank Top Women Leaders 16th edition: 



Cheryl Carolus, South African politician and activist

Former ANC deputy secretary-general and party veteran, Cheryl Carolus, is most-noted for her significant contributions to accelerating transformation in South Africa and her work with the United Democratic Front in the 1980s. She has served as a board member across multiple sectors, such as the International Crisis Group, WWF International and WWF SA, International Marketing Council of South Africa, Soul City Health Institute and as the Mpumalanga Premier’s Economic Advisory Council, to name a few. 


Professor Advocate, Thuli Madonsela, former South African Public Protector

Currently the Chair in Social Justice, in the Law Faculty of Stellenbosch University, Professor Thuli Madonsela served as the Public Protector of South Africa from 2009 to 2016. She was one of the drafters of South Africa’s Constitution and co-architect of several laws that have sought to anchor South Africa’s democracy. She is also the founder of the Thuma Foundation, an independent democracy leadership and literacy social enterprise, and was recognised as 2016’s Lifetime Achiever at the Standard Bank Top Women Awards. Most recently, she was appointed as Knight of The Legion of Honour, by French President Emmanuel Macron in recognition of her remarkable achievements in defence of the rule of law and the fight against corruption in SA. 


Nolitha Fakude, corporate activist and inspirational business woman

Nolitha Fakude, previously an esteemed judge at the prestigious Top Empowerment Awards in 2013 and the Top Women Awards in 2014, has held several senior positions at a number of blue-chip companies. She has served as the Executive Director of Sasol and the non-executive director of Harmony Gold. Fakude was also the MD and then president of the Black Management Forum (BMF), and is a trustee of the Women’s Development Bank. In 2019, she was appointed as Chair of Anglo American’s Management Board in South Africa. She is also the author of Boardroom Dancing


Dr Phethiwe Matutu, pioneering South African scientist and academic

She is one of the country’s pioneering scientists, with a Doctorate in Mathematics, among multiple other qualifications. Matutu is an inspirational role model who is making a vital contribution to changing the demographics of postgraduate students in South Africa. Matutu is the Group Executive: Strategy Planning and Partnerships of the NRF. She served as a member of the Human Resource Development Council of South Africa (HRDC-SA), and was also a Ministerial appointee in the Council of Walter Sisulu University.


Funeka Montjane, ‎Chief Executive Officer, Consumer and High Net Worth Clients,  ‎Standard Bank Group

She’s been a major role player in the Standard Bank Group for more than 13 years. Prior to her current role as CEO, Funeka Montjane held positions as the Head of Credit PBB SA, Head of Home Loans PBB SA and Chief Financial Officer PBB SA. As a qualified Chartered Accountant with a Master of Commerce degree from the University of Johannesburg, Funeka brings with her a wealth of knowledge both inside and outside the workplace. Amongst many of her achievements, Funeka was voted Top Woman Executive and Top Woman of the Year in Business at the 2012 Top Women Awards.


Professor Shirley Zinn, human resources and ethics governance expert

As a Fellow of the Institute of Directors in Southern Africa, Prof. Shirley Zinn is a Non-Executive Director of Sanlam and former Head of Human Resources for Standard Bank South Africa. Zinn was the recipient of the Top Woman in Business and Government Award and the Top Executive in Corporate South Africa Award, issued by Topco Media in 2008. She is a trustee on the Nedbank Eyethu Community Trust, and ambassador for the Orbis Africa Charity. Zinn is also the author of Swimming Upstream, an autobiography on her personal and professional journey. 


Dr. Glenda Gray, South African physician, scientist and activist

She is a pioneering medical researcher, scientist and HIV activist who made it onto TIME Magazine’s prestigious list of 100 most influential people in 2017, and has dedicated her life’s work in the search of a vaccine for HIV/AIDS. Today she is the Chair of the Research Committee on COVID-19, bringing together scientific evidence and experience to the Minister of Health and the National Coronavirus Command Council. Dr. Gray is an NRF A-rated scientist, and became the first woman CEO and President of the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC), in 2014. In 2012, she was awarded South Africa’s highest honour, the Order of Mapungubwe (Silver). 


Caster Semenya, South African Olympic gold medalist and icon

Headline speaker at the 2019 Standard Bank Top Women Conference, athlete Caster Semenya has been an extraordinary advocate in the fight for gender equality and human rights, globally. She is the two-time women’s 800m Olympic champion, a three-time 800m world champion and a double Commonwealth Games middle distance gold medallist. In 2014, Semenya was granted the bronze Order of Ikhamanga by the South African government for her achievements in sports. She has also founded the Caster Semenya Foundation, training and uplifting young athletes in SA. 


Wendy Appelbaum, South African business woman and philanthropist

Known as one of South Africa’s most wealthy influential women, Wendy is Chairperson of DeMorgenzon Wine Estate – a wine and agricultural business in Stellenbosch, South Africa. Wendy has served as the former Deputy-Chairman of  Wiphold, a women’s investment holding company listed on the JSE. She also holds a pivotal position in various other local and international organisations. Wendy is a trustee of Donald Gordon Foundation and owns the Wendy Appelbaum Foundation. She is also a member of the International Women’s Forum, a global organisation of women of significant and diverse achievement.


Maria Ramos, South African economist and corporate executive

Maria Ramos has dedicated most of her career to fiscal policy and economic planning, and has worked in banking and finance (in both private- and public-sector jobs) for many years. She previously served as an economist for the African National Congress’s Department of Economic Planning, and in 1996 was appointed the country’s director general of finance. Maria serves as the chairperson of AngloGold Ashanti, and was previously the CEO of Absa Group Limited.


Dr. Mamphela Ramphele, South African activist, physician, and businesswoman

She is a celebrated activist, medical doctor, academic, businesswoman and political leader, who has led by example. In the 1970s she was involved with the South African Students Association (SASO), and was also a founder of the Black Consciousness Movement. Dr. Ramphele became the first black South African woman to hold the position of Vice Chancellor at a South African academic institution, in 1996. She has served as a director at the Think-Tank Institute for Democracy in South Africa (IDASA), and as a board member of Transnet and Anglo-American. 


Hon. Naledi Pandor, Minister of International Relations and Cooperation

Previous Minister of Higher Education (2018–2019), Hon. Naledi Pandor has been a Member of Parliament since 1994 and a member of the National Executive Committee of the African National Congress (ANC) since 2002. As a leading lady in parliament, Naledi has served as both Deputy Chairperson and Chairperson of the Tertiary Education Fund of South Africa (TEFSA). She has also previously served as Minister of Basic Education and Home Affairs. She obtained her Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree in Education at the University of Pretoria (Tuks) in 2019. 


Yvonne Chaka Chaka, South African cultural icon and humanitarian

Internationally recognised South African singer-songwriter, Yvonne Chaka Chaka was recognised as a Standard Bank Top Women Lifetime Achiever, in 2017. Celebrated for her significant contribution to the South Arican entertainment industry, Chaka Chaka was the first black child to appear on South African television in 1981, paving the way for equality and inclusion across the nation. She established The Princess of African Foundation in 2006, and has served as a Goodwill ambassador for UNICEF and the Roll Back Malaria Partnership for many years, advocating for Malaria prevention, education and treatment. 


Phuthi Mahanyele-Dabengwa, Top Woman South African Business Executive

Top Women Leaders cover icon and brand ambassador, Phuthi Mahanyele-Dabengwa, was appointed as CEO of Naspers SA in 2019, becoming the first black African in history to run the prominent South Arfican media company. Previously, Phuti held the positions of Co-Founder and CEO at Sigma Capital, as well as CEO at the Shanduka Group – an investment holding company founded by South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa. In 2014, she was the recipient of the ForbesWoman Africa Business Woman of The Year Award. 


Futhi Mtoba, former and first woman President of ABASA

Former Chair and Partner of the Board of Deloitte Southern Africa, Futhi Mtoba is the past president – and first woman president – of the Association for the Advancement of Black Accountants of Southern Africa, a body dedicated to nurturing emerging black accountants. Mtoba holds CA (SA) and DCom (honoris causa) qualifications, and is the founder of TEACH South Africa. In previous years, she served on the Board of the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation and the United Nations Global Compact. She was recently appointed to the interim Board of the Public Investment Corporation (PIC). 


Mary Mhlongo Twala, veteran South African actress

Winner of the 2019 Standard Bank Top Women Lifetime Achiever Award, and recipient of the Order of Ikhamanga (Silver), bestowed by President Cyril Ramaphosa, Mary Mhlongo Twala is the late veteran actress who brought awareness to women’s health issues through her craft –  the performing arts. Mary was a household name, celebrated for her unique storytelling abilities. In July 2020, she passed on, leaving behind a legacy of excellence. 


Check out our bumper 16th edition of the Standard Bank Top Women Leaders publication on Issuu – Digital Publishing Platform here

Stay up to date with all the latest on Top Women in SA, by signing up to the Standard Bank Top Women newsletter – here


*For enquiries, regarding being profiled or showcased in the next edition of the Standard Bank Top Women Leaders publication, please contact Associate Publisher, Judy Chileshe:

  • Telephone: 021 205 6365
  • Mobile: 064 006 0621
  • e-Mail: judy.chileshe@topco.co.za



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