Lynette Bowes

Employment Equity Consultant at Sun International

Sun International partnered with Progression over several years to implement a comprehensive Disability Strategy across their entire business, a project spearheaded by Lynette and very close to her heart.

  • What do you think is the significance of Women’s Day?

Women’s Day is a reminder of the sacrifice, courage and tenacity of women, during difficult times, fighting for their rights. It inspires me to be more, to do more and be willing to stand up for what is right. It is a time to honour women who embodied, and continue to embody, the grace and dignity of the women of August 1956 in addressing violation of their rights head-on.

  • As a woman in the corporate world, what are some of the challenges you have had to deal with on your journey?

My journey through the corporate world has had many challenges. From my first day to the current day, the biggest challenge has been striving for equality and recognition in the workplace. I began my career during the challenging years of apartheid. It was not an easy time and meant understanding your function not as a capable employee, but also as a Black person who had to “know her place”. Striving for promotion, equality in income and opportunity was a constant struggle. Striving to remain focused on one’s goal was tiring when faced with the roadblocks that were constantly in place. I recall a manager telling me at a performance review that although my performance was exceptional, I could not be promoted and that I had reached the pinnacle of my career as a “senior clerk”. Let me say that this was his ambition for me, but not my ambition for myself.

There were many challenges, but I thrive on challenges as they spur me on to find other opportunities. I prefer not to push the rock out of the way, but rather to go around it. Having my early years dominated by discrimination and inequality, I chose to work at eliminating these for others entering the corporate world. Raising concerns earned me labels such as  “energy sapper”, “jumped up”, “aggressive” and the best, “not knowing my place”. These are all distractions from fulfilling one’s goal, and I tried my best not to let these stop me from achieving my goals. They spurred me on rather than detracting me from my vision of a better future for myself (but it was tiring and tiresome).

  • Who are the women that inspired you to succeed?

I am inspired by two women in my family – my mother and my daughter. My mother is a nurse who rose from a life of poverty and deprivation to be a highly respected ICU sister, tutor and zone matron. My mother has a quiet yet steely dignity and never gives up. She has faced enormous challenges, the loss of a son under heart-breaking circumstances, yet still managed to stand tall, brave and courageous in the face of adversity. She taught me to never give up, to strive for more and thrive with dignity.

My daughter is my other role model. At a very young age, she was the toast of the entertainment industry in South Africa. She was a successful actress, TV presenter and academically successful. She was involved in a car accident at the height of her success and a few weeks before her 21st birthday. Her tenacity and literal ‘never say die’ attitude drove her survival instincts. Although she lost her sight in one eye, she did not let that stop her from redefining her purpose in life. She faced the indignity of discrimination in the entertainment industry because of her disability. She sought new ways of doing, learnt new skills, achieved academically and within the corporate environment. Her motto was, “don’t say you can’t, unless you’ve tried”. She never stops trying, and lives her life as being differently abled to that before her 21st.

Between the two, I have learnt humility, courage, tenacity and authenticity – all underpinned by a strong resolve to be the best that one can be.

SHEroes at Work

“The circles of women around us weave invisible nets of love that carry us when we are weak and sing with us when we are strong”