University of Cape Town: UCT spearheads women’s leadership programme to improve public sector service delivery

With the launch of the Local Government Women’s Leadership Development Programme, the University of Cape Town (UCT) is in pole position to develop a pool of women leaders who are empowered, skilled, capable and equipped to make authentic, innovative and sustainable contributions to the spaces they occupy in South Africa.

UCT’s Nelson Mandela School of Public Governance in partnership with Zenande Leadership Consulting – a consultancy committed to developing women in leadership positions – developed the course that targets women leaders in council and local government institutions. It aims to enhance their leadership capacity and amplify their impact as leaders in various roles in the public sector to improve service delivery outcomes.

The course forms part of the school’s suite of executive education programmes that offers training via a range of delivery modes including short courses, workshops and implementation labs, webinars and masterclasses, and individual and group coaching.



“Through this programme we hope to support women in middle and senior management position to enhance their impact and increase the pool of women available for appointment to these roles.”

“Through this programme we hope to support women in middle and senior management positions to enhance their impact and increase the pool of women available for appointment to these roles,” said Hannah Diaz, programme manager: executive education. “This will advance transformation efforts at systems level, shift ways of work and improve the quality of work to ultimately improve service delivery.”

UCT News spoke to Diaz for more on the programme and how it’s expected to benefit women who occupy leadership roles in the public sector.

Niémah Davids (ND): Who commissioned the Women’s Leadership Development Programme and why was it necessary?

Hannah Diaz (HD): The South African Local Government Association (SALGA) appointed the Nelson Mandela School of Public Governance to develop this programme to help them build strong women leaders in local government organisations.

Public servants in our country face enormous challenges, especially when it comes to developing and implementing public development policies and delivering programmes that enable lasting positive transformation. Women in the public sector also face additional barriers, which include fewer access to leadership development opportunities to thrive and advance their careers as public leadership representatives.

There is a profound need for this type of training and development, and we hope that this programme will be the first of many such interventions – to invest in women leaders to enable them to successfully navigate the complexities of their contexts and to amplify their impact in the local government space.

ND: What makes this programme unique?

HD: This leadership programme is designed as a journey of personal, interpersonal and organisational transformation. Delegates are encouraged to engage on all three levels to develop agency and increase their capacity and resilience.

The programme was specifically designed for women who occupy roles in local government at both political and administrative levels. It has been designed to foster greater understanding and more effective collaboration between the two groups. The programme has not been designed on a one-size-fits-all basis. Instead, it’s based on a thorough needs analysis, which includes a context mapping exercise, and is designed to be highly responsive to the needs and context of the training audience.

ND: How will this programme benefit delegates in the short- and long-term?

HD: In the short-term delegates benefit from greater self-awareness and enhanced emotional intelligence. By implementing the skills they learned during the programme, these leaders should be able to positively shift their engagement within their workplaces and communities, and especially in their teams. We believe that by facilitating supportive and collaborative working environments, leaders will develop emotionally intelligent, innovative and engaged teams.



“The strong network of women leaders established during the programme also connects leaders from across the country.”

In the long-term, by consistently implementing the strategic, innovative, adaptive and ethical leadership principles and skills gained through the programme, delegates will contribute to transformation and improved organisation processes and practices in local government organisations. The strong network of women leaders established during the programme also connects leaders from across the country and across cohorts, who now function as an important support structure for each other.

ND: How many delegates signed up for the inaugural programme?

HD: More than 450 delegates applied to participate in this programme. However, we were only able to accommodate 80 of them as a result of resource constraints.

In response to the overwhelming request for training, we have developed online webinars and masterclasses for this wider audience to enable women in local government institutions across the country access to highly skilled expert presenters in each of their fields. This expanded the reach of the programme well beyond those who formally enrolled for it, and created a library of leadership development resources for delegates to access freely.

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