An Inspiring Afternoon With Rania Habiby Anderson

under5footThis post originally appeared on Under5Foot.

“You are the woman that the world has been waiting for.”

Rania (left) and myself after the even in May.I was fortunate enough to attend an event and spend the afternoon with Rania Habiby Anderson [in South Africa], author of the book UNDETERRED and the creator of The Way Women Work, the first online career guidance platform for women in growth economies.

As I directed Rania to where the event would be held, she smiled warmly and asked me how my day had been. In that moment, even with all the rushed madness of appearances to be made, books to be signed and hours of travel to be done, Rania genuinely managed to shine her light on me.

Before Rania began her talk, she asked us to gather and center all our energy and thoughts into two questions:

  1. What was it that we were trying to achieve in our career?
  2. What was the one thing (specific action) we would do differently from that moment forth?

By the time she had finished, the whole room was filled with emotion and there was a strong sense that for us women in South Africa, a developing nation with all of its highs and lows, that anything was possible.

Originally from the Middle East, Rania lived in many other developing countries moving around with her family as her father was an executive in aviation. Every day, she would be driven to school and encounter young children begging for money and food at the traffic lights. Those encounters began to make her think, even at that young age, about the inequalities among people and later in her life, inequities around gender. The harsh realities fuelled her with a passion for change and she later started a business that focused on inspiring women to take action and make a difference in their lives and communities.

It is my firm belief that when women come together, magic happens. There were many key take-aways and lessons from the engagement with Rania and I know that these will resonate with me throughout my life and career. It would be a sin not to share these with you.


Rania’s aim has always been to do something to create opportunities for women. She is on a mission to unleash the careers of 100,000 women around the world and for the past four years has spent her own time and money interviewing women, looking for what it is that women in emerging economies do to get ahead and that propels them to success.

This helped me reflect on what it is in my life that I am doing to help others. I have been given an invaluable gift that no one can take away from me: education. It is crucial that each and every one of us reflects on the role that we can play in the lives of other people. Let us not bask in our fortunate circumstances but rather aim to create opportunities and empower others to reach their true potential.


Rania highlighted that when people address women, they often start off by talking about confidence (or a lack thereof).  It’s not that one is or is not confident but rather that confidence is a feeling that can be changed by taking action. Taking action means gaining the appropriate experience that will ultimately lead you to the path of success.

The conversation about competence reminded me of another event that I attended at which the Barclays Africa Group chairman; Wendy Lucas-Bull addressed many women. When asked about women in boardrooms, she said that nothing beats preparation and competence, no matter who you are. In your rigorous preparation, scrutinize every scenario, pay attention to detail and anticipate the questions that may come


Personally, I have always focused on having a mentor however, this conversation highlighted firstly, the difference between the role of a sponsor and mentor and secondly, how vital it is to have a sponsor in your life. A mentor speaks to you privately and advises you on what to do. A sponsor advocates you in public and most importantly, opens the doors of opportunity for you.

The challenge is that often, your sponsor becomes one almost by default. The key thing is that you will earn a sponsor often by what you have delivered, always be conscious of that. Show your value.

Rania also brought to light that no matter how old you are, in some form or another, you also have influence over many things and should therefore be a sponsor and advocate for others.


The single most important determinant in a woman getting ahead is when she is able to make her accomplishments known and her aspirations visible! For some of us, this may feel uncomfortable. It is often difficult to master the balance of being known not only for whom you are but crucially for what you do and can contribute.

Find a way in conversations to talk about the things that you have accomplished. Learn to accept compliments, to acknowledge your accomplishments and to take credit for your efforts.

Another effective way is for us as women to also do this for one another. Put this to practice by introducing your colleagues at events with compliments and highlighting their achievements. This in itself is a form of sponsorship.


“Working women today spend 50% more time than stay at home mothers used to do.”

All the moms (and future moms) breathed a sigh of relief as we began to unpack this topic. Essentially, everyone realised that having to juggle a million things is hard and it’s okay to admit that too.

The consensus was that we would all free ourselves from the burden of guilt when it came to having to sometimes sacrifice a bit of family time in order to immerse ourselves in the demands of work. Ultimately, someone will be there to help hold the fort.

The afternoon ended with a question from the audience asking about what success meant to Rania. The answer was flawless:

“Success is whatever you personally define it to be.”

Remember the Working Gal has her own distinct definition of success and a plan on how to reach it. Let your talent overcome all barriers, make a mark in this world and be a sponsor for others so that they too may be successful and reach their true potential.

Be sure to get Rania’s incredible life-changing book, UNDETERRED: The Six Success Habits of Women in Emerging Economies.