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Sepo Haihambo

Standard Bank Namibia


For the third time in my career in corporate Financial Services, I was called for an interview in Executive Management. Unlike the previous times, when I had doubted myself and my abilities, I was completely confident that I had what it took to get the job done. I had successfully overcome my impostor syndrome and knew I was every bit as good as the best out there.

I prepared and prepared and prepared. The day came, and the discussion with the panel could not have gone any better. Their technical questions were easy and I had tangible solutions to real challenges the firm was facing. I was confident the job was mine.

The day drew to a close, and as part of the wrap up the panel assured me that they had no biases towards me as a woman and I would get fair consideration. They said I shouldn’t pay any mind that the panel was pre-dominantly male. Up until that point I had not realized that the only female on the panel was the Human Resources representative.

A few weeks later I was called back to a meeting at the firm. I was informed that I had done very well in the recruitment process and that my competence and capability had been duly noted. However, they had decided to give the position to someone else. I can't remember anything else that was said after that -- only that I experienced a strong surge of déjà vu.

I went home tired and fed up with being passed over for C-suite roles. I believed that at least part of the reason is that I am woman, although people always explained my concerns away and they were hard even for me to pin down. I was used to hearing a compliment which still stung "you were one of the stronger candidates, but between you and someone else the panel decided to hire the other candidate." I always inadvertently discovered that the other candidate was a man.

This time, I was drained. I felt that perhaps it was time for me to opt out. I had given it my best and it was perhaps time to take the final curtain call and give up my C-suite ambitions. I have a happy marriage to a loving spouse and two beautiful children. Perhaps the C-suite was just a dream.

But in the end I decided, NO, I was not giving up my sit at the table. I was not going to opt out and give these firms one less woman to choose from. I was going to fight back just by showing up and throwing my name into the ring. I wouldn't let my current frustration make me drop out of the race; I would pick myself up and admit that I had lost this round, but that if I kept going and kept trying, there would be more chances to come.

And there will be. I am still pushing, and I won't stop until I get there.