Botho Leburu is one of the only two women in the 15 sub-Saharan countries where Stanchart has presence, responsible for driving performance of the business and also overseeing all governance issues relating to financial markets and its operations. She is Standard Chartered Bank Botswana’s Head of Financial Markets.
Kindly discuss your professional background
I have over the past 11 years built a career in banking, specializing in Financial Markets. During which time I have built proficiency in both the core function of the business being trading and sales. On trading, my focus was on Asset and Liability Management, responsible for both liquidity and interest rate risk management. Whilst on the sales side being responsible for structuring, marketing and selling of structured risk management solutions across three broad categories – foreign exchange, interest rates and commodities. As part of the Bank’s executive management, I am also responsible for the overall governance of the Financial Markets business.
What motivated your career choice?
The initial steps that led me into banking were definitely not deliberate; I started off in retail banking, as a Sales coordinator, providing Sales and Management Information’s support for Personal Installment Loans channeled through direct sales (commonly known then as No Mathata). This role gave me a good footing into the banking world and spurred my passion for sales. I also developed a very keen interest in corporate and institutional banking, whose demands and operations I found to be quite challenging; fast paced and highly dynamic. Financial markets presented me with exactly that environment, and the enigma of developing a scarce skill career.
What have been your accomplishments in your career so far?
I have over the past decade enjoyed innumerable accomplishments. First being the accelerated growth path, attributable to a variety of factors; hard work, excelling performance, consistently demonstrating an inherent potential which saw my place to the bank’s talent pool. This presented me with phenomenal opportunities including exposure to international markets where I was assigned to SCB Nigeria and UAE. As well as access to leadership development programs and vast “airtime” with executive management from both regional and group level. Despite being relatively young and fairly new to the Sales role, in my first “official” leadership position in 2010 - I defied all odds, turned around a business and delivered record growth performance for Botswana and also making significant contribution to the Africa region in spite of a market that was deemed unsophisticated and lacking appetite for structured risk management solutions. I’m very patriotic, and determined that my successes extend beyond just the individual level but as far as possible to also elevate my country’s profile. I have recently assumed a role, where I’m one of only two women in the bank’s Africa operations entrusted with driving performance and ensuring sustainability of the FM business at a time when both local/global markets and economies are undergoing immense and varying strains. This in itself is also quite an accomplishment.
How has been the support from both your male and female counterparts?
My own experience has been that the support you’d get is largely a result of just how well you relate with an individual; be it male or female. For me, the key has been the ability to build and maintain relationships, knowing how to communicate and forge some common grounds of understanding with all people. I have had to over the years, leave my comfort zone to engage people and ensure I get the necessary support to see through my goals. I’m quite an introvert and therefore this can be quite an insurmountable effort that goes against my natural energy levels, nonetheless I recognise the value in networking and building relationships and spend considerable time seeing this through.
Do women receive the same treatment from employers as male counterparts?
I have received support not based on gender or even age, but simply on excellence and commitment, which are traits that I believe are not gender specific and can be displayed by either men or women. However, there is still a lot of innuendo disparity on the expectations placed on professional women as opposed to their male counterparts. There is still some distance to go in creating working environments where career experiences offered to both genders, young and old are not in aggressive conflict, but can be blended and balanced by different life choices. The differential treatment that is there I believe is not so much intentional but as a result of life’s circumstances and choices driven by underlying socio economic dynamics which ultimately translate into an unconscious bias that tends to be more skewed towards males over their female counterparts. Research and statistics (Global gender report-2016) continue to point to these gender disparities by employers, where reported is a prevalence particularly in developing countries, by women to mostly focus on “unpaid jobs “- salient and very critical social roles that often cannot be quantified”. These therefore tend to be given minimal recognition professionally, and perhaps the inherent questionable merits of these responsibilities which are somewhat contradictory to the employers underpinning focus to deliver on “bottom line”. Also reported on is the fact that women earn half their male counterparts pay however for exactly the same role, in addition to working longer hours. An interesting observation I’ve also noted, is that of all listed BSE companies only two are led by women. But then again, one could also question whether the employer is female or male – and who should assume responsibility to propagate for societal and culture?
What prevents women from growing in their professional careers?
Often what prevents professional growth for women unfortunately lies in perception, rather that fact. It can be in the simplest things like how one physically appears, to the more complex things like societal gender constructs for the woman’s role in the family. Speaking of physical appearance, and perceptions one of the remarks I’ve gotten which really irk me is the supposed astonishment to women with beauty and brains! One of the issues that have been trending recently is the renowned African author; Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie appointment as a Make-Up ambassador. In conjunction, was the announcement of female celebrity singer Alicia Keys’ decision to no longer apply makeup– these two seemingly irrelevant events tell a lot about perceptions and expectations. The backlash that Adichie received was incredible, given the perception that educated; intelligent and professional women do/should not have time for their looks and therefore should not bother with things such as make-up if they want to be taken seriously by their colleagues. On the other hand, celebrities are expected to care and promote ‘artificial beauty’. Amongst other perceptions is the misconception of women to be emotional and therefore not be taken seriously in the boardroom, except for when they display male-related tendencies, which are construed as acceptable and thinking with a ‘clear head’. Another example that springs to mind is the voice training that Margaret Thatcher had to undergo – to develop an authoritative tone, which leads one to question whether there room for authenticity and just being your true self. Perceptions aside, there are also then the blind spots which we women tend not to see. These are elements of self-doubt, fear to be bold and make our interests and demands well known.
Your inspirational word to other women especially young ones who look up to you:
Women are very powerful beings, and “With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility” so let’s embrace our uniqueness. Speaking to gender related issues, it’s clear that the odds won’t necessarily favour you; so don’t dwell on them but rather seize the moment and focus on how best to leverage opportunities that are there to propel your growth. Overcome those unconscious fears at the psychological level, strive to excel and push the barriers – besides what’s there to fear? Worst case you may make a mistake but the bright side safe for death is that you can always start again, and better yet live to share the experience.