This Women’s Month as part of our Mukuru Women series, we sat down with legal eagle, Tasneem Davids-Wickstrom. Read on for a snapshot of her life journey and find out how her passion, work ethic and tenacity are taking her places.
Captonian, Tasneem, is an admitted attorney with a law degree from the University of the Western Cape (UWC). While studying for her LLB degree, she completed an international human rights course with Howard University (USA). Before joining Mukuru, her passion for Labour Law began while practising at a law firm. Tasneem believes that all people should be treated with fairness and be given access to opportunity. She is now responsible for all labour and disciplinary matters within the Mukuru Group. When Tasneem takes off her legal cap, she is the proud mother of three sons and likes nothing more than to enjoy the great outdoors with them.
How important is the influence of family on your professional life – from parents in your formative years, to siblings, partners, etc?
I believe that my parents and husband have had a huge influence on me becoming a lawyer, as well as my work ethic. My dad was very hardworking and my mom took care of the family. In essence, they showed me how to be great at both roles that I play. I do them both well and that is because of the role models I was exposed to. I have been with my husband since I was 16, and I always say that he is my biggest critic, which pushes me to do the best I can and to work harder to achieve everything I want in my professional life.
Who has had the biggest influence on your career?
Throughout my career, my eldest son was my motivation for being successful. He motivated me just by being born, walked the university journey with me and gave me a reason to be successful. I had him when I was 17 and he was the very reason I needed to reach my career goals.
At Mukuru, Chaperon Kani, who although it took some convincing, helped me to move into the perfect position for myself.
Did you have a mentor and what role did that person play in your life?
Not really a mentor, but the person who introduced me to Labour Law and who taught me a lot was my principal attorney, Eben Simons. When you have completed your LLB Degree you are required to do your articles as a candidate attorney, you work under the guidance of a senior attorney and I was really lucky to have learnt so much from Eben, especially because he is really good at what he does.
What are the biggest challenges in your role at Mukuru?
Getting people to accept accountability for their actions.
How do you deal with professional stress?
I run, workout and love to bake. I also smoke which is a really bad habit. I really should really quit!
How do you maintain a work – life balance?
My family is really important to me, but so is my job. I love what I do and I work hard. But when my kids need me, they need me – and I make sure that I’m always there for them. They understand how hard we work and why we do it, but they also know that family time is family time.
If you could give your younger self a piece of advice, what would it be?
Be kind to yourself. I tend to push myself really hard and set super-high standards. My advice to my younger self would be to take it easy, not all the time, but sometimes.
What advice would you give to women at Mukuru?
You are stronger than you know; whether it be in your personal life or in the boardroom. You can achieve whatever you put your mind to, no matter the consequences, so go on and grab it!
What can we do as women and men to begin to deal with the scourge of women-abuse and femicide in our communities?
I firmly believe in the power of education and raising awareness. The plight of women-abuse and femicide has manifested in our country for far too long and I am proud to be part of a generation of individuals who are taking a stand.
We can’t do it alone and raising awareness will not cure our country of this plague. But I believe that talking about these issues forces us all to confront speech or behaviour that, consciously or unconsciously, perpetuates the idea that women are less than, that women don’t deserve respect or positions of power.
It starts at home; educate yourselves, your partners and your children. Raise your sons to be men who aren’t afraid to speak out against “locker room chat” and raise your daughters to become the CEOs your parents wanted you to marry. Raise them to recognise their value, their power and their beauty.
“Here’s to strong women, may we know them, may we be them, may we raise them”