Her message is that the time has come for women to stand up and step forward into more leadership roles across a world in need of kindness and understanding. But that doesn’t happen easily, according to Dr. Felicia Mabuza-Suttle, president of Leadership Success International.
Mabuza-Suttle was the keynote speaker at the Organization of Women in International Trade (OWIT) anniversary dinner Friday (Oct. 5) held at the Arkansas World Trade Center in Rogers.
The local OWIT membership is comprised of trade professionals from Wal-Mart like Angela Marshall-Hofmann, who is serving her second year as the international president for OWIT.
Other local trade advocates like Susie Hoeller provide legal counselor for companies seeking to trade abroad and Adiana Hofer, a native of Brazil, teaches supply chain management at the University of Arkansas. Local entrepreneurs like Christine Meier, co-owner of Canvas Corp., are also active in OWIT. Meier’s wholesale crafting business trades with more than 27 countries around the world.
It turns out this high-profile South African celebrity and her husband of 30 years, Dr. Earl Suttle, are extended family to a young NWA power couple, Robert and Amy Kihenia-Davis.
Kihenia-Davis, a native of Kenya, is the president of the local OWIT chapter which organized two years ago. She and Robert work at Wal-Mart corporate, she in international trade and he in real estate.
“We are so excited to host the Suttles here in Northwest Arkansas for this event. They are both very inspiring individuals,” Kihenia-Davis said.
Mabuza-Suttle said she was asked to speak on international trade. And she certainly could have done so, but she opted to challenge the women to “think differently” if they are going to be seen on a level playing field with men.
Mabuza-Suttle knows firsthand what it takes to get the most unlikely partners to communicate.
Following the release of Nelson and Winnie Mandella in 1984, Mabuza-Suttle was living in the U.S. with Earl and their two young daughters. She felt a calling to go home to South Africa.
“I gave her my blessing to go after her dreams, even though it meant cold food and a cold bed for me,” Earl Suttle said in his introduction of the speaker.
Mabuza-Suttle spent 12 years in South Africa helping to bridge a communicate gap that had existed for decades between blacks and whites.
She hosted the first talk show in the country designed to get both sides engaged in conversation. Mabuza-Suttle authored a number of books on leadership and effective business communication and today works as a motivational speaker and consultant.
TIME FOR WOMEN
She told the group before you can trade or sell anything, one must first learn to effectively invest in, and sell themselves.
After more than 200,000 years, Mabuza-Suttle says women are starting to rise to positions of power in all corners of the earth.
“It’s a new game, the time is right for women,” she said.
Mazuba-Suttle challenged the women to “think differently” about the new game in play.
“When you empower a man you helped an individual, when you empower a woman you can help a nation. Just look at the President of Malawi Joyce Banda, she proved this when she slashed her salary by 30% to share in the difficult times suffered by her countrymen. She said there is a nation to build and so gave up presidential luxuries like a jet and palaces in order to do her part,” Mazuba-Suttle said.
In technology, business, government and sports, she said the examples of Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer; IMF President Christine Lagarde; Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Olympic champion Gabby Douglas have been extraordinary clarion calls for women to step forward like no other time in history.
While progress has been made, she said it’s been a slow grind for women trying to exude power and effect change in man’s corporate world.
“We have a lot of work left to do. Look at Rwanda, some 56% of the parliament is comprised of women, but today only 17% of the U.S. Congress is female,” Mazuba-Suttle said. (The Rwandan Constitution, however, requires a certain number of seats be reserved for females. In the lower chamber, 24 of the 80 seats are women-only, and in the upper chamber, a minimum of 30% of the 26-seats must be held by women. Also, not all members of Parliament are elected. For example, in the Senate, 14 members are appointed.)
The speaker said confidence is essential to any successful game plan. When confidence is possessed the challenge or enemy is twice defeated in the game of life, but without it one is lost before the race begins, she added.
Mabuza-Suttle encouraged the women to walk tall and smile big as the smile is likely the most powerful weapon one can use for evoking good, positive energy in any situation.
She said dress the way you want to be perceived and that includes traveling because one never knows who they may meet on an airplane.
“I look around at airports and see people dressed as though are about to run a race of some kind. I don’t know what’s up with that. But I will tell you I got two jobs on an airplane from people I had never met before,” Mabuza-Suttle said.
Risk taking is necessary, but she said women often fail to develop the courage to gamble for gain. At the end of the day, she said the core of any successful game plan will be the passion it takes to fuel the power to effect change.