Pria Hassan - It can be done


Executive Director at Women of Africa (WOA)

PRIA HASSAN, the Multi award winner of Women of Africa (WOA) is humbled by the numerous awards and recognition that she has received, as they have made her realise that "It can be done". She said, "Having grown up watching LA Law, I was determined to become a lawyer and graduated in the early 1990s.

I started my career in the logistics environment and drew on my legal and corporate experience to build the WOA brand and expand into the energy sector, women in logistics, women in construction, engineering, mining and, still in its infancy stages, women in pharmaceuticals." She added that given the choice and given the chance, women have the power and potential to not only operate in any industry, but to excel in it. Hassan added that the recognition from her children has made the greatest impact on her.

"I appreciated early on that if I wanted my son to grow up in a world where women are respected as equal and valuable contributors to society and a world where my daughters can fully actualise their potential, then I would have to actively work towards creating such a world. If I could do that, then, ultimately, the long hours and sacrifices would be worth it,"

"This is what my work is essentially about. Every accolade, every goal, every milestone is about impacting the world in a way that makes it a more equal and rewarding place for my children and their peers to grow up in," said Hassan.

Integrity and credibility are the top two strengths that Hassan firmly believes have been central to achieving success in her career. She said, "The fuels and energy sector has always operated as an exclusive, males only club and gaining a seat at the table was a mammoth task but one that I am immensely proud of having achieved, without compromising my business ethics. The underrepresentation of women in key industries remains an ongoing challenge that not only undermines the gender equality dialogue, but, ultimately, the economic outcomes of a country."

Hassan added, "I also learnt early on that if you want to earn respect and overcome gender-based stereotypes, you have to speak with confidence and certitude." "Coming from a logistical legal background, I had to familiarise myself with the methods of calculating fuel pricing and understanding the dynamics of the energy sector, so that I could engage and negotiate as a serious role-player."

She added that women that are already operating successfully in the sector need to be more visible and accessible. Having an online information- exchange forum is one such way for aspiring young women to tap into multi-perspective insights and learn from different women's personal and business success models. "Globally, the energy and oil sector is facing a skills shortage. Addressing occupational segregation is now a business imperative.

As the demand for energy increases, we need a pool of talented young people to seek innovative ways to access complex hydrocarbon reservoirs," said Hassan.

With predictions that Baby Boomers will retire within the next few years, it is up to them and Generation X to ensure that Millennials are upskilled, mentored and empowered to take the industry forward. Hassan said, "Young South Africans need to be exposed to and educated on the opportunities in the energy sector."

As an entrepreneur that has successfully grown and diversified her business model, Hassan passionately believes that Africa's greatest natural resource is our youth and that it is imperative that we accelerate efforts to foster a spirit of entrepreneurship in young people, so that they become job creators instead of job-seekers. She commented that we need a more robust private-public partnership initiative to equip young people with essential business management skills, educate them on funding options available to them and help them deal with red tape which, often, is what hinders their ability to prosper.

WOA supports a number of projects that focus on women and child abuse, health and HIV and has worked with international organisations in Africa to distribute rapid HIV confirmatory test kits that are donated to women, so that they can check their status and treat it accordingly.

Hassan views her role as a board member of the Businesswomen's Association of South Africa as an important part of her long term vision. "It has enabled me to work with like-minded women to drive the gender transformation dialogue at a regional and national level." "It has also allowed me to champion a project, together with a dedicated sub-committee, that holds a special place in my heart-the "Businesswomen of Tomorrow" (BWOT) event. Many young girls aren't given adequate information on how to make informed career choices, manage finances, prepare for interviews or the opportunity to engage with successful women," said Hassan.

Now in its 16th year, the BWOT workshops, a collaborative project with the Department of Education, is designed to equip promising young girls from disadvantaged schools across KZN with the tools and resources they need to make a success of their entrance into the business world. The workshops have impacted on thousands of girls and enabled them to see, that a world of possibility, outside of their circumstances, is possible.

Hassan concluded, "I have had to rethink the guilt that comes with seeking that elusive balance between a demanding career and the needs of my family and I have come to realise that "balance" is a moving target and has meant different things at different stages of my life.

Over the past few years, I have learnt to delegate much of the operational aspects of the business, giving me more time to spend with my family. When I am away, technology allows me to be easily accessible and involved in their day to day experiences. A regular dose of "Vitamin Sea" also helps me to unwind and relax. That's when I can sit still long enough!"

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