Female Leaders

Denouncing the stereotype

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These women were bold enough to strategically nurture their passion and use their skills to make their own imprint in the male dominated world of business. Fiercely relying on hard-work and confidence to prove that women don’t only have the ability to lead but when determined they can successfully elevate to the top in their respective fields.

BBQ sat with the Creative director of Nungu Diamonds: Ursula Pule and the Creative Director and the Co-Founder of Regency Global: Thulisile Manzini. Who both elaborated on what it takes to fill the shoes of women who refuse to believe that gender solemnly decides your outcome in running a successful business? These two women are rewriting the narrative and using their experiences as a reference in the hope of teaching women that self-doubt is their biggest enemy.

Turning rough diamonds into the most precious gemstones

Their considered symbols of everlasting love, eternal commitment and commonly referred to as a girl’s best friend. But what happens when the love for diamonds exceeds an over the counter desire and commitment to purchase. When a woman actually gets involved directly by running a diamond business that gives her the first-class experience of working with the best diamonds in the world. Creative Director of Nungu Diamonds, Ursula Pule is proof that diamonds can evolve and become much more than a best friend. She ensures a Nungu diamond purchase is an unforgettable experience.

South Africa is famous for its abundance of rich minerals and metals. As one of the world leaders in mining, it accounts for a significant portion of world production and reserves. Mining contributes immensely towards employment in South Africa, in 2016 the sector employed 457,332 people. BBQ magazine spoke to one of the leading women in the diamond industry, Creative Director of Nungu Diamonds, Ursula Pule, who elaborated on her experience, the company and how she hopes to constantly remind people that diamonds are indeed forever.

Initially starting her career in the creative industry, she graduated top six in her fashion design class at North West School of Design. A true creative, with a great eye it’s no surprise her vast knowledge and experience would give her a sustainable competitive advantage as Creative Director for Nungu Diamonds. Just three years into the diamond business, she was invited by De Beers Group to be on the panel of international judges for their annual De Beers Shining Light Awards 2018/2019 jewellery competition, especially chosen because of her unique experience and skill-set in the diamond and jewellery industry.

Ursula Pule formally joined the company in 2016, working along with her husband Kealeboga (Lebo) Pule, the founder of Nungu Diamonds. Nungu Diamonds is a licensed South African natural diamond manufacturer founded in 2013, today it is also a private polished diamond retailer and bespoke diamond jewellery brand.

They provide a wide range of polished diamonds to private clients looking for a bespoke diamond experience, straight from the source. All Nungu’s diamonds are sourced from reputable diamond mining companies and rough diamond suppliers including De Beers, Petra Diamonds, Alexkor and the State Diamond Trader. Nungu also has affiliations with Diamond Associations such as the South African Young Diamond Beneficiators Guild and the International Young Diamantaires, which serves under the World Federation of Diamond Bourses, something that Ursula and Lebo are both very proud of.

Nungu Diamonds is one of only five-diamond companies selected to be part of the De Beers Diamond Beneficiation Project, launched in 2016. Pule’s career has had many highlights, but one of the most remarkable ones has to be her initiation and involvement in the Nelson Mandela Diamond Centenary Celebration held at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, in Hong Kong in September of 2018. At this special event, their diamonds were showcased to private clients from Hong Kong and China.

Four countries participated in the Shining Light Awards 2018/19 competition: South Africa, Botswana, Canada and Namibia for De Beers. Being one of the judges at this competition was a remarkable honour for Pule, another special experience for the company and for her was, personally meeting and working with Connie Ferguson on a custom special jewellery piece, where she purchased the diamonds from Nungu Diamonds and they created a bespoke item of jewellery for her. Pule now calls Mrs. Ferguson a dear friend and adds that she is an amazing woman, a great South African icon, an exceptional role model not just as a businesswoman but as a mother loved by many.

Nungu diamonds don’t only attract quality and respected clientele because of their rare beauty, they are responsibly mined and supplied by their partner De Beers. Who were pioneers of the Kimberly Process, they continue to make improvements to their pipeline integrity systems. Pule says they have worked hard to acquire and maintain their rough diamond supply from them. In turn, enabling Nungu Diamonds to supply polished diamonds, they take pride in the fact that the rough diamonds are sourced responsibly and adhere to all Kimberly process requirements. In general, mining companies in South Africa and in the SADC Region all adhere to the Kimberly Process; which was put in effect to prohibit the illicit global flow of rough diamonds.

Which brings us to the question of how they turn the hardest natural substance into these precious jewels that sparkle? Diamond cutting and polishing have changed significantly over the past two decades. Nungu Diamonds cuts and polishes rough diamonds using the world’s most advanced diamond manufacturing technology to produce world-class quality polished diamonds sourced and manufactured in South Africa.

The company prides itself in its beautiful, high quality polished diamonds and bespoke diamond jewellery, all of which is proudly South African, and fully Gemological Institute of America (GIA) Certified. This is the most renowned certification process in the world.

Today Nungu diamonds makes use of rough diamond planning technology, which allows them to determine with a high level of certainty, the shape, clarity and colour of the polished diamond. Implementation of tools like a water laser, allow them to sew the diamond into multiple parts with a high yield recovery (weight retention is very important in the diamond industry.)

Technology such as Computer-Aided Design (CAD), has ensured that they are limited only by their imaginations in terms of what they can create, interestingly they are now working on a range of diamond lapel pins set in 18ct gold (yellow, white and rose) and platinum. Their jewellery manufacturing is true to original designs and the people behind their inspiration are the individual clients who come looking for a bespoke diamond experience.

A combination of first class ingredients ultimately makes an unforgettable meal

The experience she has within public service made her the best person to fulfill the position of Brand South Africa’s CEO. Her role is to steer the ship that manages the issues impacting South Africa’s reputation. Particularly focusing on managing media relationships and developing content focusing on SA’s profile.

The multifaceted leader, has more than 20 years experience in public service, Thulisile Manzini gave us detailed insight on the priority of their organisation and how it is successfully mobilising South Africans in rallying behind their national brand reputation. The conscious leader uses strategic marketing and communication initiatives, to showcase the country’s strengths in the hope of strengthening the brand. She explained how the organisation is maximising on selected programmes designed to develop Brand South Africa.

You’re a multifaceted executive leader with more than 20 years’ experience in public service. Can you tell us more about your background?

Prior to my appointment as the Acting Chief Executive Officer at Brand South Africa, I was the Deputy Director-General for Governance and Administration at the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services (DTPS), a position that I held since January 2016. Chief Director of Corporate Services at the Department of Public Service and Administration and Head of Corporate Services at the Municipal Infrastructure Support Agency (MISA). Other senior and executive management roles that I have held include Acting as Director General, Chief Operations Officer, Chief of Staff.

Your appointment as Brand South Africa CEO, came amidst a number of organisational challenges, faced by the company. How do you hope to drive the organisation, moving forward?

My experience within public service and specifically the governance arena has prepared me to fulfil this role. My objective is to ensure business continuity as we all understand the strategic importance of the work that Brand South Africa does.

Brand South Africa’s mandate is to ensure that South Africa is positively positioned, domestically and internationally. What strategy do you have in place to achieve this goal?

Brand South Africa is tasked with managing issues impacting the country’s reputation and the nation’s brand including managing media relationships and content development related to profiling the country. This is executed both proactively and reactively through direct engagement with media and stakeholders. The priority for organization has been to mobilise South Africans to rally behind the Nation Brand and position the country as an attractive destination for inward investment and tourism. Brand South Africa thus develops programmes to build pride and patriotism through the implementation of the strategic communications strategy to promote active citizenship and social cohesion among all South Africans.

How will you get South Africans excited about your brand?

Brand South Africa’s flagship domestic programme, Play Your Part, is a nationwide programme which celebrates individuals and organisations that contribute to nation building.

This is done with the aim to inspire, empower and celebrate active citizenship in South Africa, whilst encouraging others to do the same. Through strategic marketing and communication initiatives the organisation also showcases the country’s strengths with the aim to enhance the Nation Brand reputation.

You’ve held various senior executive management roles in the South African government. What has been the highlight of your career?

In 2018 the DTPS hosted a successful International Telecommunications Union (ITU) Telecom World event in South Africa, where 180 countries were represented. I was tasked with leading the Communications Workstream which included the interdepartmental Communicators and Communicators from Entities.

Also the Development of the overall Communications Strategy of the event. I participated as a panelist at the W-Suite event where I spoke on “Conscious Leadership: Leading with Authenticity, Intent and Purpose. How we can become intentional about change”. Recently, I was honoured to be selected as a finalist in the Top Public Sector Female Leader category for the 2019 Standard Bank Top Women Awards.

What leadership philosophy do you live by?

I am truly inspired by the concept of conscious leadership. Forbes Magazine defines; “conscious leaders as those who speak with integrity, lead with authenticity and hold themselves accountable.” I try to lead with a positive purpose that seeks to grow the next person. The reality is that we spend so many hours at work with an array of personalities. I believe the least we as leaders can do is make the environment more conducive, purpose-driven and effective to growth.

Women are significantly underrepresented in top positions. What do you think needs to be done to encourage women to take on more leadership roles?

Female representation in top positions, particularly within the corporate sector, needs to improve. Government has laid the foundation for women empowerment and women have repeatedly proven their leadership strengths. I think the question should be focused on what needs to be done to ensure that women have equal opportunities to leadership positions. Equal opportunities.

Many people look up to you, they see your drive, passion and constantly evolving career and aim to be just like you. What words of encouragement would you like to give our readers, especially the young women who look up to you?

It may sound like a cliché, however the reality is there are no rewards without hard work, dedication and constituency. That being said, I am of the opinion that successful leaders are followed because they are truthful. Our children need to be afforded a future where no person will be left behind based on gender, colour or faith. Commitment to self cannot supersede commitment to others.

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