In her new role, Derby will be responsible for the leadership and performance of key Aurecon projects across Africa. She is passionate about manufacturing and infrastructure development on the continent and is well-known for being proactive in building strong diverse teams that work across multiple disciplines and sectors.
Her new role is part of a larger strategic move to reshape Aurecon’s African business to further enhance its service to clients. Derby will lead the organisation to achieve its goal of partnering with African clients to design their future, determine their responses to industry and digital disruptions, and develop innovative pathways that will enable them to thrive in increasingly dynamic economies.
“I have always been a feminist, in everything I do, women are always a key consideration. Believing that the empowerment of women has not kept pace with the broader development agenda, I would like to participate in the creation of an environment that facilitates more women to take up positions of influence in the economy,” says Derby.
Within Aurecon, as well as the wider corporate sector in South Africa, Derby is a vocal supporter of initiatives that empower women: she actively promotes mentoring and the transfer of leadership skills to younger women within the business. She feels that there is far more that South Africa should be doing to ensure that the gender diversity gap, particularly in the private sector, is narrowed; and that there is a sufficient pool of women in strategic leadership positions contributing meaningfully towards economic growth and employment creation in the country.
Portia Derby taking part in #INWED18 (International Women in Engineering Day) by closing the gender diversity gap and #RaisingTheBar in business and engineering through dialogue and mentoring.
Planting leadership seeds where they matter
“We need to start planting leadership seeds from developmental stages in our communities. Parents need to move away from dolls for girls and Lego for boy’s mentality, as it means that from a very young age, boys are expected to think strategically, learn to solve problems and build things from the ground up, while girls are occupied with dolls and embroideries. We need to teach boys and girls to take risks and to adventure boldly, and go where no woman or man has been before, so we can all work towards a better future,” says Derby.
Companies need to commit to targets
Companies must do much more to empower women by committing and demanding accountability in achieving targets for women in strategic positions throughout their organisations – the same way sales and other targets are set, explains Derby.
The responsibility of female role models
“I hold the strong belief that women who occupy senior leadership positions should be role models and embrace the responsibility to actively cultivate the next generation of female leaders who will take the baton from them,” concludes Derby.