The official judging to find the new winners of the Businesswoman awards started this week. Sometimes it is hard to believe that these awards have been running for 21 years, and in the current format, for 12 years.
As has now been established, women aspiring for the grand title of the Namibian Businesswoman of the Year, must be nominated by a third party and they must be nominated in one of four categories. Nominees must accept the nomination, and then comply by furnishing the extensive documentation required for a valid nominations. Both these hurdles are intentional and constitute the first tentative screenings which must be passed before reaching the judging phase.
From the more than 40 nominations received, slightly less than half pass this first filtering mechanism. This is by no means a reflection on any of the nominees’ ability but rather a sifting mechanism to ensure that those nominees who go to the trouble of submitting the documentation, and then submitting themselves to public scrutiny, must be willing and committed to do so. Each of the category winners will be regarded as a leading figure in her business environment and become strong role models, especially for younger women.
The winner of the grand title, The Namibian Businesswoman of the Year, assumes such a high profile and a public image that it is hard to describe to people before they have actually experienced it. It starts almost immediately after the Gala Banquet where the first four winners are announced and then the overall award, and it continues for a two-year period. Every single Namibian Businesswoman of the Year to date, has been overwhelmed by the flood of interest and support she has received after winning any of the categories, or after becoming the Grand Dame.
The overall winner is chosen by the judges from the three winners in the categories, Community & Government, Private & Corporate, and Business Owner. It is another condition that the winner in the Young Businesswoman category is not considered for the grand title. This is one of many status-enhancing rules to ensure that these young women enter the limelight, but that they continue building their careers and their businesses, with a view of winning the grand title some day in the future.
Earlier this week, the sixteen nominees who passed the first two hurdles met the judges and the sponsors for the first time. Up to that point, everything was based on paper only. Granted, entering the awards and being eligible as a nominee is a very subjective process that can not be fully appreciated by those who only see the results of all the hours of sweat and blood that go into a career or a business. But when the judges are faced for the first time, it becomes an intensely personal process, and it then also becomes apparent why the participating women are worthy candidates for a nomination.
From there on, the judging becomes ever more personal delving deeper into the clockwork that makes every candidate tick. Part of this round of judging consists of a visit to every nominee’s workplace, where it is up to the nominee to convince the judges she has just that little bit more oomph that makes her stand out above the competition.
When the official judging starts, it always amazes me what high calibre women are out there, going about their daily business, building themselves and their families in small incremental steps, until eventually, they have risen to a niveau where the world pays attention. Many of these nominees I only hear of for the first time when their nomination documentation is put down in front of me with strict instructions to extract such editorial elements that exposure is neutral and each candidate reflected in such a way that no one is advantaged or impaired. And it is usually while I am rummaging through pages and pages of supporting evidence, that I come under the strong impression exactly how powerful these women are in their own domains. It is an understatement to say that I am always impressed.
If I go by the calibre of all the nominees over the past 21 years, I do not hesitate to predict an excellent future for my country. If there are so many very powerful business and professional leaders amongst the women, it also indicates that there is huge leadership skill embedded in the full spectrum of institutions needed to make a country and an economy prosperous.
The next two weeks is a nail-biting time for the nominees. It is hard to be scrutinised in public and there is always the reality that in the end there can only be one winner in each category, and eventually only one Grand Dame.
But it is such an invigorating process, I am looking forward to it.