CHRO SA meets Emergence Growth Chairman, Dr Pat Smythe

Dr Pat Smythe believes that more African female role models are needed.

Dr Pat Smythe, Executive Chairman of HR consultancy Emergence Growth, believes that part of the reason African countries are so far behind their European and American counterparts regarding gender equality issues is that there are far fewer female role models for black African girls to look up to. Because, while legislation may change people’s heads, it is the role models that will change their hearts.

Smythe recently met CHRO SA Community manager Maud Meijvis and shared that gender equality is an issue about which he cares deeply about. He said that even though there are shining examples – such as former public protector Thulisile "Thuli" Madonsela, former President of Liberia, Ellen Sirleaf, and late apartheid struggle heroine Winnie Madikizela-Mandela – the continent needs more professional women of this calibre to come to the fore.

He said:

“In the HR profession, there are remarkable women such as CEO Shirley Zinn and Sasol’s Executive VP, Charlotte Mokoena, however, they are probably only recognised for their excellence in a defined circle and many young girls may not even know who they are. Maybe we need to profile them more publicly. 

He added that role models inspire women to strive for more and push harder against gender discrimination. "Indian girls have Indira Ghandi, the UK has Margaret Thatcher and, in Germany, young girls have Angela Merkel to look up to. But I believe that, as a continent, Africa does not have enough of these kinds of icons," he said.

In addition to his current role, Smythe is also a Gallup-certified strengths coach and mentor, a Fellow of the ILM, a registered HR Auditor with the South African Board for People Practices (SABPP) and a Board member of the New LoveLife Trust. He also received Africa’s HR Leader of the Year in 2011, was inducted into Africa’s HR Hall of Fame in 2012, and in 2015, received the Africa HR Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2016, he was recognised by the World HR Congress as one of the 100 most influential global HR leaders.