Decoding the mind of a corporate woman
Investigating fraud and corruption is no easy feat. There is a joke among forensic practitioners, that it takes one to catch one. If you want to trace the modus operandi of a fraudster, you have to almost imagine that if you were in the same circumstances, what would you do? so for example, how would you go about hiding assets or moving money.
In simple terms, there are four elements to the crime of fraud:
3. Misrepresentation; and
4. Actual or potential prejudice
Underpinning all of this is that there is an act of dishonesty.’ So what does all of this have to do with women?
Sherly Sandberg in her widely acclaimed book “Lean In” described by The Times as the business manual of the year, writes in her chapter titled ‘Sit at the Table’ that the best speech she had ever heard, was a talk called “Feeling Like a Fraud.” The talk explained that many people, especially women feel fraudulent when they are applauded for their accomplishments.
Women are uncomfortable with being praised and somehow feel that they are not worthy of recognition and that they will be “caught out.” What appears to be the more scientific name for this is the ”imposter syndrome,” where capable people suffer from self -doubt and apparently women are more susceptible to this then men.
So it is that women are intentionally self-sabotaging in their minds, with the only misrepresentation they are making is to themselves that they are not good enough. That the actual or potential prejudice they are causing will in the end be detrimental to them and their self- development. This in itself is surely unlawful.
If women continue feeling like fraudsters, the actual or potential prejudice that will be suffered will be felt in our economy and society. Warren Buffet CEO of Berkshire Hathaway said at Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Summit last year that he was able to succeed because he was only competing against half of the economy.
In 2010, when Bill Gates visited Saudi Arabia, a member of the audience noted that Saudi Arabia aimed to be one of the Top 10 countries in the world in technology by 2010 and asked if that was realistic, this is what Bill Gates had to say, “Well, if you’re not fully utilizing half the talent in the country, you’re not going to get too close to the Top 10.”
Women in South Africa are not prohibited by any law from being active members of our economy, in fact, The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, promotes gender equality but perhaps this isn’t enough. Sandberg writes that “if we want a world of greater equality…we need institutions and individuals… to encourage, promote and champion women.” With our workforce at Mazars being over 60% of women, one of the ways in which we encourage and promote women is through the Mazars Women’s Forum, started in 2010.
Mazars understands that the South African economy cannot grow without the voice of our women. Our forum is about sharing ideas and coming together, to help women connect by building relationships through conversations about the economy and society.
The reality is that men and women inherently conduct themselves differently in the workplace and network differently, does this mean that women are incapable or less worthy of occupying boardroom seats? absolutely not.
So if women continue to sabotage themselves by doubting self, feeling like they are not good enough in the workplace, then they are guilty of committing the crime of fraud with all four elements being present. South Africa and the world can ill afford to have women being prisoners of their own minds guilty of fraud.
By Nazreen Pandor
She is an Admitted Attorney of the High Court and a Certified Fraud Examiner, a Director at Mazars and Non- Executive Director of the Construction Industry Development Board. She is also chairperson of the Youth Employment Index – an initiative powered by Mazars