Woman of the Week: Aisha Rahman

Corporate Powerhouse/ Gender Activist

As we sit on the balcony of a swanky Cape Town after work drinks spot Aisha’s elegant jewelry glints happily in chorus with the city lights behind her. She’s wearing a blazer and formal trousers with red leather flats. None of the newbie corporate sexpot business I often see in these establishments.  All the sitting areas are filled and people are hanging around the balcony unwinding after a long week. The crowd is mainly successful working professionals, and in that regard Aisha fits right in.

Despite only being 31 years old Aisha currently holds one of the most senior positions at an international financial house. She travels monthly to London from Cape Town and manages a team over two continents most of whom are significantly older than her. Aisha started her career with her current employer immediately after her completion of an Actuarial Science degree from the University of Cape Town. Eleven years later, she holds a position that most ambitious professionals in the field see as the end game, the goal, the position that they might one day, in twenty years time hope to have.

Aisha humbly attributes her professional success to her mentors. She firmly believes that through their support and mentorship she achieved her massive success. A major turning point in her professional life happened when she was sent into an important meeting with the task of having her “name all over the minutes”. I probe her for more, she adds that together with excellent mentorship her traits of wanting to always be and do better and to learn how to do things better is what has made all the difference. She is self-critical and admits that she would not be satisfied if she was told in a performance appraisal that she’s done well. Mediocrity doesn’t exist in her vocabulary.

As a woman of colour in a white male dominated environment, Aisha has had her share of challenges. Though despite her gender and race, she found that the biggest hurdle to overcome was the one of age. She explains that her youth was the factor that she felt most and that she had to work hard to make her voice heard. And that she only truly found her voice years after starting work. “It’s scary to speak up in meetings when you feel that you’re too young and inexperienced to contribute”. She dealt with this by over preparing. Aisha admits to reading 300 page documents in preparation for meetings so that she could ask the right questions and positively contribute to the discussion and decision- making process. Proof that the glory of success comes with incredibly hard work.

Despite this, she has time for her family, friends, and social projects of which she is very proud. She is active in social upliftment and plans to grow these endeavors. Over the years Aisha has taken an active role in her local mosque and is a gender activist and social commentator. And while she is conquering the corporate jungle now, her ultimate goal is to leave a lasting an impactful legacy.