Vodacom executive and former Witsie believes women should persevere and work hard for their dreams.

A FORMER Witsie was named Top Young Achiever under 40 at the annual Standard Bank Top Women Awards held on Thursday, August 15 at Emperor’s Palace.

Mariam Cassim, chief officer of Vodacom’s financial services, was recognised for her leadership within the corporate space, by the Standard Bank Top Women Awards, which celebrate South African women and organisations that prioritise gender empowerment.

Cassim said she has often found herself working in positions where she is one of few women, if not the only woman.

“It is difficult, but women must let their hard work speak for itself,” she said.

A 2018 article published by international accounting firm Grant Thornton states that while one third of South African women occupy senior positions in the workplace, 20% of local businesses have no women at all in management.

Out of 11 executive committee members, Cassim and chief officer of corporate affairs Takalani Netshitenzhe are the only women on Vodacom’s top management team. Cassim is the youngest of them.

“When you have proven yourself, they cannot question you based on age or gender,” she said.

Nadine Nagooroo, Vodacom’s executive head of risk compliance for insurance, described Cassim, her boss, as “driven”.

“She has the ability to get the best out of all people and she is very caring,” said Nagooroo.

“Recognising the hard work women do in their work spaces is inspiring and allows women to have a louder voice,” she added.

With the help of an Eskom bursary, Cassim studied accounting at Wits from 1999 to 2002. After humble beginnings where money was not always available, Cassim said, her first thought after graduating was to find work to help support her family.

Accounting professor Pat Dickson convinced Cassim to enrol for postgraduate accounting, leading her to complete her studies in 2003.

“At the time, I did not have any career guidance so I barely knew what a chartered accountant was,” Cassim said.

She is “truly humbled” by the nod of appreciation.

“It is not only for me, but for every other strong and powerful woman out there ranging from the young entrepreneur to the stay-at-home mom,” said the 37-year-old Cassim.

She said some role models, such as Oprah Winfrey or Princess Diana, are not fully relatable. That is why it is important for women to share their success stories and give back, to inspire those around them.