#WomenofUP: ‘Setting high goals should be the mission of every woman’ – newly appointed Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences Dean

Posted on August 10, 2021

“My vision for the Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences [EMS] is to promote and ensure research productivity with high-impact relevance,” says newly appointed Dean Professor Margaret Chitiga-Mabugu. “[I also plan to] enhance and uphold the significance and excellence of the Faculty’s academic offerings; actively pursue alternative funding sources, maintain financial sustainability and optimise resources; as well as advance an ethical, diverse and inclusive faculty community that strives for equity and cultivates a sense of belonging for all.”

Prof Chitiga-Mabugu tells us more about herself, her love of learning and teaching, and offers her thoughts on leadership roles among women.

Tell us a bit about your background.

I was born in Zimbabwe. Both my parents were healthcare workers, and education was very important to them. In fact, they sometimes held more than one job in order to ensure that we had a good education. I obtained my BSc (Hons) and MSc Economics at the University of Zimbabwe. After I obtained my master’s degree, I enrolled for my PhD in Economics, and graduated in 1996 from Gothenburg University in Sweden.

How do you feel about your appointment as Dean of the EMS Faculty? 

It is an honour and privilege to have been appointed Dean. I’ve been a member of the faculty for more than 15 years. During this time, I observed the many changes that have continued to advance the Faculty’s offerings, image and rankings. The Faculty also consists of staff that are highly motivated to continue driving excellence in all the various roles they play. I am excited to be able to lead this team to further enhance our excellence in the academic project. I expect that I will learn a lot while at the same time making a positive impact.

What drew you to economics?

I love economics, I love students, and I love research. I find it very rewarding to sit around a table with colleagues and brainstorm on how to tackle a problem. It is even more rewarding when I contribute to knowledge and practical policy solutions. I am also immensely satisfied when I’m able to explain difficult concepts to students, and not only do they understand, but they’re able to apply the information and develop a love for the subject. I like the adrenaline that comes with doing research, sometimes failing, then correcting and finally achieving.

What are the challenges that women face in the world of work?

One of the biggest challenges for women is to maintain a balance between home and work life. I also think that, even though they have support, career women are still considered the primary caregivers at home, and it is very difficult to balance these two roles. South Africa has made some progress in reducing inequality in the workplace; however, women tend to have to work harder to prove themselves. Also, women are often excluded from male-dominated extra-curricular activities, where a lot of strategising and networking take place. They are also excluded because they tend not to have the spare time because of their dual roles.   

Tell us about your leadership style.

My leadership style is one of shared leadership. When you work with passionate, capable colleagues, it is very easy to be a leader. I learn from my colleagues and I expect them to learn from me. I keep an open ear and shoulder, but I refuse to settle for less than the pursuance of excellence. In my role as a leader, I accept that relationships are a journey on which we carry each other along the way. My role is to ensure that as we do that, everyone is seen and contributes, and that we build a mutually desired community together.

I have mentored a few women, from students to more established professionals, and although this takes a lot of time, it is important that I be involved in mentorship programmes.

Do you think men should provide more support to women in their careers?

We should all support one another. Additionally, men who believe that women need to be under the leadership and direction of men, that men should have the last word – for example, by being the ones who talk the most in meetings, who claim to be the only originators of good ideas and whose job is to oppose the ideas of women – need to be enabled to unlearn such beliefs and be taught to be more supportive.

What should be done to ensure that more women take up leadership roles?

Mentorship programmes for up-and-coming women are very important; men should also participate in such programmes and share their knowledge with women. Young women especially must be accommodated when they need to take time off to see to the needs of their children. There needs to be some level of flexibility, depending on the needs of individuals. Women should also not be afraid to put themselves forward for higher positions, but they must not be forced to do so either. Setting high goals should be the mission of every woman. I also think women need to support one another more.

What do you like most about your job and what keeps you motivated?

My job fulfils all that I need in a job. I very much enjoy learning new things, and I have a passion for interacting with society and communities to share lessons I’ve learnt. I also enjoy making a difference in the lives of my colleagues. Essentially, I come to work to live my dream life. I count myself very fortunate.

What advice do you have about perseverance and overcoming adversity? 

No matter who you are and at what stage you are right now, you can attain what you want. You need to set your targets high, push yourself to reach those targets, accept help and help others – you will be astonished at what you can achieve.

- Author Xolani Mathibela

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