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Five women you need to know

Tyeya Ngxola is the chef and co-founder of La Petite Maison in Melville.
Tyeya Ngxola is the chef and co-founder of La Petite Maison in Melville.
Image: Lesedi Mothoagae

With women’s month coming to an end, we took the opportunity to not only celebrate, but also highlight five incredible women you need to get acquainted with.

Not only are they making great strides in their respective careers, but they are also showing no signs of slowing down.

Although these women are from different backgrounds and career fields, one thing they have in common is their desire to break barriers and to do better for the next generation. 

Tyeya Ngxola, 35

Ngxola is the co-owner of La Petite Maison, a high end restaurant in Melville. The flight attendant-cum-chef and restaurant owner is proof that it’s never too late to follow your dreams. After working as a flight attendant for over a decade, Ngxola enrolled at a culinary school.

“It’s not an easy industry to be in, especially as a female because it’s a predominantly white and male industry, but I guess you have to fight for your space.”  For her, women empowerment is not only about fighting for your space, but owning it too. Her future plans include owning more restaurants and growing in the culinary industry.

Image: Supplied

Sarah Madingwana, 25

Madingwana is the co-founder of Rudo Institute, a higher education institution based in Daveyton, east of Johannesburg. After being frustrated with how inaccessible tertiary education was, Madingwana channelled the frustration into building Rudo which aims to bring resources and opportunities to people in the township.

The institution offers business development courses as well as a creative hub for local entrepreneurs. For Madingwana, women empowerment is about breaking the barriers that make it difficult to advance in their chosen careers. “Through Rudo Institute, I want to raise the status of women by raising awareness, literacy and training.

“I’ve had amazing women in my corner who shaped the person I’ve become, which is why I understand the importance of lifting others as I rise,” she says. Her future plans include building a state of the arts, cost effective institute of higher education in various townships.


Tuleka Mpotulo, 37

Mpotulo is the head of group governance at the Johannesburg Stock Exchange. Being at the helm of the largest stock exchange in Africa is no easy feat, she says.

“It is a juggling act between wanting to be involved in my daughter’s life while putting in the hours at work to stay on top of my game.”

Although she feels that being a black woman in a cut-throat industry means having to work three times harder to earn your place, she says she is willing to do it. She is currently registered to write her board exams for the CIS (Company Secretarial) qualification and is working towards being a chief executive officer of either a financial services or mining company.

Image: Supplied

Gundo Nevuthanda, 27

Nevuthanda is a financial regulatory attorney at Webber Wentzel in Johannesburg. In 2017, she was named the youngest female conveyancer by the Law Society of the Northern Provinces. The Limpopo born attorney has a non-profit organisation called the Dignify Her Foundation which mentors girls from her home village of Vondwe, and provides sanitary towels so they don’t miss school.

“Women empowerment to me isn’t a tick box exercise; it’s not saying ‘we’ve done this for women or we have x number of women’. To me [it] means giving women a voice, giving women not just a seat at the table, but a seat that matters.” In addition to being in practice, Nevuthanda is pursuing a PhD in Corporate Governance for financial institutions.

Image: Supplied

Kelly-Marie Jacobs, 31

Jacobs is a white wine maker at Zonnebloem Wines in Stellenbosch. Growing up, Jacobs did not even know about wine making or that it could be a professional pursuit. That was until she read an article about a female winemaker and decided that’s what she wanted to be.

“I was 13 at the time and I didn’t even know that wine making is a profession, let alone that a woman can be a winemaker,” she says. “I think it’s very difficult for women to take a chance on something outside the norm, but I have learnt that it is better to take a chance on something you love than failing at something you don’t want to do.” Jacobs believes that her journey is just starting.

“I want to keep the wines at a high standard and quality that can reach people who are new to drinking wine all the way to those who are more experienced. It’s basically about reaching everybody, because wine is about connecting people,” she says.