WPO on the move

Anni Bodington, head of the Cape Town chapters of the WPO

The Women’s President Organisation (WPO) in South Africa encourages significant business growth.

“The lack of women in senior leadership positions in JSE-listed companies, and the findings of the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor that firms owned by women tend to be smaller in both turnover and employees, points to issues of women leadership and succession in South African business,” says Anni Bodington, who has headed the two Cape Town chapters of the Women Presidents Organisation (WPO) in South Africa for the last five years.

“A recent survey of WPO members indicated that they experienced significant growth in revenues, staffing, control of operating systems and learning new methodologies for entrepreneurs,” she says.

The WPO chapters internationally bring together groups of 10 to 20 CEOs in a confidential, safe environment to create real dialogue between members and enable setting the course for future growth. The opportunity to discuss challenges in a non-competitive supportive environment is empowering and there are countless success stories and testimonials to demonstrate the value of investing in this type of executive development programme.

Member companies are required to have a turnover of R20 million if they are manufacturing and supplying products or R10 million if they are providing services such as Public Relations or Human Resources.

Says, Miranda Isaakidis, who heads the second Gauteng WPO chapter, “The value of WPO membership is that is expands members’ horizons and opens the door to a wealth of experience that they may not have previously have had access to. Our members range from attorneys to zoologists, all highly successful women who are looking to take their enterprise to the next level”.

The organisation which has been successfully operating in Cape Town for five years, launched its first chapter in Johannesburg in October 2013. The WPO now intends to aggressively roll out additional chapters in Gauteng, to support women-led second tier companies with the support of its numerous blue chip international sponsors, including PwC and Walmart locally.

Through global, confidential and collaborative peer-learning groups, the WPO accelerates business growth, enhances competitiveness, and promotes economic security.

The WPO has over 100 chapters with more than 1700 from around the world. In 2013, it expanded its presence in South Africa and developed new markets including Australia, New Zealand, Turkey, Mexico, North Africa and the Middle East.

Miranda Isaakidis continues, “Although peer advisory groups have been around for decades, there is an increased interest in this type of leadership development model as globally more second tier companies are required to do more with less and ROI in training is imperative.”

Investment in traditional leadership training programmes is proving difficult to sustain in the longer term. There is generally an adoption of new skills acquired directly following a training episode but inevitably, executives return to their old habits and methodologies, diluting the benefit of the training programme.

“Commitment to a twelve month membership ensures a focused effort three to four hours a month, where leaders work “on their companies” as opposed to “in their companies”.”

The peer to peer advisory group model offers the following benefits:

  • Analysis of the participant's businesses using roundtables and case studies.
  • Expert advisors who participate in discussions of specific pre-selected topics.
  • Guest speakers on business topics selected by the group.
  • Meaningful input and peer group support.
  • High visibility role models.
  • Interactive exercises.
  • Long and short term goal setting.
  • Sharing best practices.
  • Business growth and enhanced competitiveness is accelerated.
  • Access to an informal advisory board.
  • The collaborative process enables members to become better team players, listeners and overall leaders.
  • The peer group can help you move away from the day to day issues of running a business and assist you to look at the bigger picture and be accountable for the goals you set to grow your company.

The WPO is the ultimate affiliation for successful women entrepreneurs’ worldwide, connecting women who lead and own multi-million dollar companies. In monthly meetings across the world, women from diverse industries invest time and energy in themselves and their businesses to drive their companies to the next level.

Jodi Lynn Karpes 


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