An inspirational female business leader: Tshifhiwa Ramuthaga
A passionate advocate of the transformative capabilities of technology and a visionary who believes in creating spaces that allow others to grow, Tshifhiwa Ramuthaga’s career has seen her work at large organisations, including Telkom, Standard Bank, the Financial Services Board, and now Barloworld, where she is its Chief Information Officer (CIO).
“I didn’t know anything about computers or computer science as a teenager,” she says. “I just knew that I didn’t want to follow in the footsteps of my father and siblings and take up a career in medicine. One day, my brother’s friend pulled up in a Jetta and I knew that I wanted to work in whatever industry allowed him to drive that car. When I asked him what he did for a living, he told me ‘Computer Science’. I didn’t know what it was, but I went to study it.”
The rest, as they say, is history. Ramuthaga fell in love with the potential and transformative capabilities of technology and was given the opportunity, during her career at Telkom, to work across numerous areas of the IT profession.
“My parents instilled a work ethic in me from an early age and I took this into the workplace,” she says. “I did experience racial and gender discrimination, but it didn’t stop me, because my parents had taught me to stand up for myself and the generations that will come after me. It’s also important to point out here that I received amazing support from many of my bosses.”
From Bob House at Telkom to Justin White at Standard Bank, Ramuthaga shares a list of people who saw her as a worker and a colleague, not as a woman. This was a profound gift that allowed her to expand her skills and become a leader in her own right.
Asked what advice she would give women entering the industry, she says: “Yes, we are still battling and grappling with the challenges facing women in this industry, but don’t walk into the industry carrying the baggage of the past. You just end up throwing it at people and don’t recognise those who do give you space.”
Perhaps one of her most salient pieces of advice for any woman walking into a room of men is this: “Your excellence determines the way they treat the next woman who walks into that room, and it’s about creating opportunities for the future generation of women entering the workplace.
“I’m committed to going back to my old village and showing them what they can dream, the possibilities that lie ahead,” concludes Ramuthaga. “I tell them, I know where you come from, and the possibilities are real.”