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THOUGH the scales are tipped toward lower-level positions, women in the banking sector are slowly cracking the glass ceiling and making their mark.
Sandwiched between her responsibilities as general manager for customer propositions at Absa small business and general manager for Absa micro enterprise finance, Bongiwe Tindleni bears testimony to this.
She dreamt of becoming a pharmacist. She pursued that dream and obtained a Bachelor of Pharmacy degree at Wits University in 1998 with six distinctions.
After her internship at the Tembisa Hospital in Gauteng she did a Diploma in Management at Wits Business School and later a Master's in Business Administration at the University of Pretoria's Gordon Institute of Business Science.
She says had she listened to the nay-sayers, she would never have ventured into banking.
"I loved the banking sector and knew that if I didn't work in the corporate business environment, I'd regret it."
Her tenacity has paved the way to positions of increasing responsibility: from consultant at Accenture to strategy analyst at FNB Commercial to strategy and planning specialist at Absa Bank Small Business to business manager at Barclays Global Retail and Commercial Banking in London.
She says that working in London made her realise how sophisticated South Africa is in financial services.
"It confirmed that I wanted to live in South Africa after all the experience I gained overseas," Tindleni says.
Born in Eastern Cape and raised in Tembisa, Tindleni, now 32 years old, matriculated at the Sagewood Education Centre in 1994.
Her philosophy is to be the best you can be each day and to meet each day with a positive attitude.
"I expect a lot from myself and through my actions want to encourage those around me to do the same," she says. "My major goal is to accomplish everything I can with honesty, integrity and a lot of hard work and determination. I seldom take no for an answer. I do not believe in 'I can't'. I have never limited myself to 'set' goals because new opportunities present themselves each day."
She leads a team of more than 160 people. She says contrary to the belief that women are difficult leaders, she has a very good relationship with her subordinates, both men and women.
"Our role as leaders is to provide guidance and support. We have to respect and acknowledge each and everyone's input so that people respect us," Tindleni says.
Her advice to other women leaders is: "Regardless of the arena into which we are cast, we must never inflict further injustice on anyone . We must enhance and improve the lives of those we serve. We must become servant-leaders to ensure that society will benefit and no one will be told that her dream is impossible."
Tindleni, who was a Midrand junior city councillor from 1992 to 1993, is passionate about education. She advises girls to get as much education as they can and those entering the workplace to be confident in themselves and their abilities and to take their responsibilities seriously.
She is not married and has no children because she has not met the right man yet. She loves travelling and touring and enjoys the theatre, r eading, jazz and watching sport.