Linda Mayekiso: Your homosexuality is your superpower

Linda Mayekiso: Your homosexuality is your superpower

Linda also formed the Shell LGBTQIA+ Network to advocate for the inclusion of queer employees, clients, and stakeholders within the corporation.

The turning point in Linda Mayekiso’s professional career was his appointment as direct marketing manager at Shell Africa, a prestigious post entailing the management of a multimillion-dollar budget.

Linda was subsequently appointed manager of brand marketing from 2011 to 2013 and manager of payments and loyalty from 2013 to 2021.

The Shell LGBTQIA+ Business Network exemplifies this point.

Linda admires Bonang Mohale, the former CEO of Shell Africa, and echoes his words: “The success of any organization depends on its capacity to create a sustainable, inclusive space.”

I had the honor and luxury of conversing with Linda Mayekiso, whose charisma, wit, and words of wisdom left me feeling elevated.

Also see how sides are inverting the sexual orientation binary.

I am a marketer who identifies as Zulu and who identifies as homosexual.

I adore my heritage and ancestry [recite his totems], and I feel that you must understand your past in order to understand your future.

Born and raised at King Edward Hospital in Umlazi, Durban, in the 1970s.

Grandmother Dr. A.T.C. Mayekiso played a crucial influence in my educational background, as I was reared in a wonderful matriarchal family.

My aunts and uncle were fond of me, and it was incredible to grow up as a youngster who was unconditionally adored.

I was fortunate to attend a multicultural high school in South Africa during the stormy 1980s, which were marked by political upheaval and revolutions.

Due to my exposure to the best of both worlds, despite the psychological toll it took on me, I became multidimensional.

In the township, I encountered discrimination due to my sexual orientation. I was referred to as “Sis Bhuti” (a pejorative name), but I was adored at home, so it didn’t affect me.

Also, I was discriminated against on the way to school, as black students were not permitted on forms of transportation designated for “white-only” passengers.

As a black LGBT student, I suffered loneliness, but I had companionship in the form of the school’s elder guardians.

I immediately registered in UKZN for a bachelor’s degree in accounting after completing high school.

In our second year, our professor (Dr. Bonke Dumisa) informed me that I am not an accountant, but rather a marketer, and that I should switch to a Bachelor of Commerce in marketing.

I believed his counsel when he suggested I seek holiday employment at Unilever rather than an accounting firm. I had no idea that he was always correct!

In addition, I enjoyed my time at Unilever and switched courses without telling my parents, so long as I completed in record speed and obtained my belt.

After graduating, I worked for a while at the institution before finding employment in Johannesburg. The rest, as they say, is history.

An intriguing fact is that my dear friend Petunia Sibanyoni persuaded me to work for Shell, and after her fourth try to convince me to apply for the marketing position, I eventually agreed to give it a chance.

The job description asked, “How do you make oil brands appealing?

“I was sold and captivated.

My experience has taught me that to be successful in the corporate world, you must apply the following formula: 40% for your work/role, 40% for relationship development within the organization, and 20% for going the additional mile.

I had to maintain a positive rapport with my superiors, such as my line managers and top executives.

I ensured that I had a sponsor, a superior in management who believes in my abilities and skill set.

Nomusa was my sponsor, and she ensured that my name was spoken in restricted areas.

I also volunteered in other departments, such as the corporate social investment initiatives and the graduate programme.

That truly helped to raise my profile.

The organization’s basic values, such as honesty, respect, diversity, and inclusiveness, resonated with mine, which was a big factor in my advancement within the organization.

I felt at ease to learn and be independent.

I recall my general manager telling me that I do not belong at Shell because I am femme-presenting, outspoken, and homosexual.

He advised that I seek employment in an advertising firm and that I would not advance beyond my current position.

I simmered in response to what he said, and I recall promising myself that I would not compromise who I am in order to be accepted.

I had to break through the glass ceiling, and I received multiple promotions. I enjoyed thirteen years with Shell.

My queerness, which was intended to embarrass me, had to become my strength. I am unique because I am gay.

In retrospect, that moment of failure transformed into a victory and prompted me to consider the future.

I had to ask myself, “How can I ensure that no other gay professional experiences rejection in the workplace like I did?”

How do I effect change?

“And this is where the Shell LGBTQIA+ Network began.

I recalled that I had to submit the proposal to the then-chairperson, Bonang Mohale, fearing that he would probe me; yet, the project was a success, despite some resistance from other elements of the organization.

And I am so glad to report that Shell Africa developed the network that paved the road for other corporations to be inclusive of LGBTQIA+ stakeholders.

Using my privilege, I had to provide seats at the table for other queer professionals at Shell. Selflessness is the essence of leadership.

You must also vacate your seat at the table to allow others to shine.

I have always been out gay, therefore I cannot relate to what it is like to be in the closet.

There is a 70% retention rate as a result of the fact that being yourself at work guarantees a 30% increase in productivity.

First and foremost, coming out is a personal journey; not everyone must do so. However, I advise gay professionals to be confident.

You must bring your true queer self to the boardroom; do not conceal any aspects of yourself in the parking lot.

Being confident compels you to accept your whole queerness. Your queerness is your superpower.

It’s going quite well. One of the primary reasons I work at The Other Foundation is to provide my expertise to the LGBTQIA+ community, businesses, and organizations.

My grandmother gave me the following mantra: “We are more important than I.”

I am taking a break from corporations, but I am working on a white paper about how the public and private sectors might invest in the Pink Rand.

We are also collaborating with The Other Foundation on The LGBTQIA+ Roundtable by engaging corporations locally and across Africa with studied guidelines on how to be queer-inclusive.

I’m also working on a second research titled “A Case For Change” that classifies enterprises into three broad categories: nothing, something, and sustainability.

The Nothing category comprises corporations that are oblivious to the importance of the LGBTQIA+ community and do not invest in or support activities related to queer people.

Businesses who support Pride Month, Coming Out Day, and LGBTQIA+ efforts are ranked in the Something category.

A prominent Kenyan LGBTIQ activist was discovered dead.

The Sustainability category ranks businesses with queer businesspeople in their supply chain and LGBTQIA+ professionals at the executive level.

I would advise corporations in South Africa to mirror the culture in which they operate by embracing LGBTQIA+ employees, suppliers, executive representation, and sustainability.

Because there is equality, understanding, and diversity, 72% of allies are more inclined to accept employment offers at companies with prominent gay employees and executives.

I further urge the commercial and public sectors to invest actively in the Pink Rand because its value in 2019 was R57 billion.

This is a conversation starter, and we need CEOs to respond as follows when we make a presentation: “How can we invest?”


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