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Lesedi Mashale – Major Player in Male Dominated Industry

Elesi Azumah

Her name means ‘Light’ and Lesedi Mashale certainly intends on portraying that image for women all across South Africa.

Not only does the 31 year old possess a successful career in corporate South Africa, she’s also: Head of Brand PR for Diageo SA, Founder of Business-Moriri and a mentor too many far and wide… Shine Sis

Do join us as we celebrate another beautiful Wonder Woman and her journey towards becoming the Light she beams today!

Apart from the titles and your corporate success, who is Lesedi Mashale?

 “She is a family obsessed nerd! One of my favorite things to do is play with my nephews or plan family get gatherings. There is nothing better than a warm smile from family from purely seeing you”. 

You possess a Bachelors of Commerce in Marketing and Advanced Management and an Honors in Marketing Management. Where does the passion for marketing stem from and was it always “the golden choice” for Lesedi?

“It definitely wasn’t by mistake but I didn’t necessarily know what it was in the beginning. From as far back as 13 years old, my older sister would mention that she didn’t see me in a ‘traditional corporate role’. Even my parents would comment on how outgoing I am, how I get stuck into creative concepts at school.

In my first year at Wits University I had signed up for a Bachelor of Commerce in Accounting Science, looking to pursue the Charted Accountant route. Big mistake! I absolutely despised it and remember crying when I got home after my first day of vocational work at an auditing firm. I really should have followed my passion for Brand Strategy & Building and shown my conviction for my passion. Luckily I have supportive parents who were willing to help figure out what studying Marketing would look like and my next steps. By 2nd year I had switched to Marketing”, she explains.

At the age of (31), You are the Head of BrandPR, Influencers and Events for Diageo SA. What does that mean to you as a Young Black Woman in a male-dominated industry?

“It means excitement, challenges and knowing that every single day I am going to be learning something. I didn’t expect that this is the direction my career would take me but it’s also resulted in me wanting to do more to help others, women in particular, take charge of their narrative & careers.  Leadership in the form of EQ was never taught to me until I got to corporate. Had I been more self aware earlier in my career I think I could be a lot further. I feel I have a responsibility to push myself and help other women along the journey”, she says.

A label/stereotype women often face within the corporate field, is apparently make “emotional decisions”. Is this something you often face with other male counterparts within your field?

“Often no but I have come across it. It was in the early stages of my career with little exposure to EQ. Thankfully those days have passed. People also need to be, 1:) more self-aware in the work place and 2:) cautious with feedback received.

Being self-aware allows you to hold a mirror up & have a greater understanding of who you are and being mindful of who to receive feedback from. Know and leverage opportunities for feedback from people with intention of building your character and leadership”.

Current brands under your portfolio is: Johnnie Walker, Ciroc, Haig Club Clubman, Tanqueray, Smirnoff just to name a few. Describe the journey of having international brands under your belt and the hurdles faced to get to this point of your career?

“It’s an incredible responsibility being part of a team entrusted with global brands. They come with a provenance narrative & stories that have made them so loved all over the world. Translating that into a local strategy that’s relevant, true to consumer insights & adding a unique flavour never gets old.

It also means standing up for what you believe in.As much as we are responsible for these brands we are also responsible for safeguarding & championing our local audience. Its not enough to step & repeat globally built plans- that push back will never get easy & will mostly likely always be there but we need to stand our ground”, she states.

 

How do you juggle being part of the Marketing Leadership team for Diageo SA, Hair Brand Owner & Founder of a Business and still manage to attain your MBA at Wits Business School?

 Day by day! Its all about balance and being comfortable with knowing that not everything will get done everyday & that’s Okay. Its also a lot of focus on prioritisation & stakeholder management. I am able to do what I do because of the structures around me. I am accountable to them & myself to make sure we all benefit”.

Was it a conscious and deliberate decision to enter the alcohol industry, considering that alcohol is often associated with male authority figures?

“It’s never been something I was opposed too. For me, it was more important to identify organisations that could fulfil my career development needs. Both SAB & Diageo do that for me & allow for a lot of growth. If I let anything male specific dictate over my life I wouldn’t be very far”, she firmly states.

How do you ensure that your gender does not play a role towards ‘securing the bag and deals’?

“I lead with ‘facts’ & in this instance, it’s the expertise & value I bring to the role. Once that exists base gender shouldn’t matter to anyone in the room. I also don’t feel women should shy away from being female. It is who we are & in our DNA. Taking on an industry with a demeanour that isn’t your own doesn’t set yourself up for success”.

Tell us about ‘Moriri’ by Lesedi and what makes the brand different from any other hair extension brand?

“Moriri – By Lesedi was rooted in empowering the consumer and authenticity. As a business, we are proud of our sourcing methods, grading process and making sure customers are well informed in their decision making. It was also such a passion project of mine when it started that I took so personally. If I wasn’t doing something daily on it or getting feedback from the industry I felt like I was doing it a disservice. I think customers felt that and it created a connection with the brand”,she explains.

What is next for Lesedi and what words of encouragement do you have for the ‘young girl child’ wanting to pursue a career in so called ‘male dominated industries’?

“Taking over the world, building an army of empowered, self sustaining women & starting to work on my legacy. Looking back at the strides I have made in under a year, it feels like the best opportunity to grab everything head on. Ladies, go for it! The world isn’t built to support us, so we need to hold ourselves and others up. Ignore the barriers, they will always be there. You are a woman & that is your power. Back yourself and throw down the ladder to someone else when you get the opportunity too.”

 

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