The Cape Town International Convention Centre IN CONVERSATION WITH CTICC’S WOMEN LEADERS

Date: 09/08/2023



The CTICC is a world-class venue for regional, national, and international meetings, conferences, exhibition, trade fairs, banquets, concerts, film shoots and stage productions, where people meet, collaborate, create, and find solutions.

Since opening its door 20 years ago, the CTICC has impacted lives by creating economic opportunities. It is a catalyst for social change and stimulates significant economic growth and job creation in the Western Cape province and is recognised as an invaluable contributor to the sustainable development of the City of Cape Town, the Western Cape, and South Africa.

Four of CTICC’s women leaders joined our conversation about gender diversity and inclusion in their sector. What emerged were some heart-felt insights and lessons that helped shape their careers and the organisation.


When looking back, passion and purpose, although unconscious and unformed, was present as early as their pre-teen years that underpinned their journeys to leadership.

Taubie Motlhabane, CTICC’s Chief Executive Officer, remembers being strongly vocal, determined, curious and a collector of diverse new friends from all cultures, religions and colours, against a background of discipline and solid values from her strict schoolteacher mother. This helped shape her strong commitment and trajectory of creating sustainable social impact as a leader.

Head of Sales, Lillian Hlabangane spent her afternoons after school helping to earn the household income by selling her grandmother’s home-grown vegetables door- to-door, honing her networking, and selling skills that would stand her in good stead at a later stage.

Tracy Mkhize, General Manager: Food and Beverage Operations, avoided housework by burying herself in schoolbooks. By researching and looking for answers and fitting all the pieces together, she developed an approach which was to become her modus operandi in later years.

Mandy Whatford, Maintenance Coordinator developed her passion for solving technical problems as a young girl, raised by two older brothers who taught her to play soccer, fix bikes, throw a mean punch, and wear pants instead of pretty dresses. This inevitably led her to find a home in the technical department at the CTICC.

By always keeping one’s vision focussed on the big picture has helped all four women overcome day-to-day challenges. They agree that by identifying and following their passions, and then adding purpose and discipline, they were able to develop capacity as leaders.


 According to the CEO, Taubie, self-motivation and independence are the hallmarks of her management style. She has been in the business events and tourism industry for most of her career spanning over 30 years, with roles varying from head of a convention bureau, head of conferences, head of events to business tourism manager.

Tracy, who has over two decades of experience in the hospitality industry, and an EXCO member, affirms that allowing space for people to find their own solutions and not micromanaging them develops trust, and this is key to instilling strong leadership traits. This has helped her develop strategic plans and set priorities for the business as part of her portfolio.

Taubie adds that freedom and close management can be a balancing act as everyone is different, and a leader needs to understand their teams, and know what kind of management style works best for them. This is not always easy.

She also emphasises the importance of a culture of freedom to make mistakes in the workplace, “As leaders, we need to encourage failure as a necessary pathway to success, and if we learn to own our mistakes and be accountable, great things can happen,” she says.

For Mandy, the freedom to dream big, take on challenges and find solutions, has been her source of inspiration that gives her the ‘big highs’ in her career. Most importantly, she encourages other women to never be afraid to fail, as through failure, you learn and evolve. “A skilled sailor does not become skilled in calm waters but stormy waters,” she adds.


Lillian, Head of Sales, is not only highly experienced in hospitality, business events and destination marketing, but has always been a complete empath and holistic leader, which accounts for her success in running the sales division. She says that the events and hospitality industry is women orientated, and in her division, women are naturally attracted to and are very good at sales due to empathy, ability to listen and build relationships. What has been more challenging is running the risk of reverse gender parity to ensure there is a balance of male/ female energy which results in a more balanced lens.

Taubie adds that the CTICC has always been very deliberate about gender parity across all levels of the organisation. She points out that during its 20 year history, there have been four CEOs, two of whom have been women and two men, spread evenly across racial demographics. In addition, the EXCO and MANCO have both sustained gender equality and inclusion over the years. She goes on to say that the CTICC has really done it really well, and avoided the proverbial ‘Irish coffee’ syndrome where the small top layer are men and the bottom layer women.

Mandy says that the challenge in the workplace is career stereotyping, which starts during childhood, when parents point their offspring to careers that are clearly gender specific. She adds that it’s best to lead ‘by example’, or what Taubie terms as ‘lead from the front’, as people relate to the fact that a woman has achieved a leadership position in what was traditionally a man’s career, such as maintenance, facilities management or leading an organisation. This gives them hope and courage to follow suit!

From a practical gender diversity and inclusion practice, Tracy adds that every CTICC department has an appointment target, and this is strictly adhered to and tracked to achieve the set goal.


Amongst the CTICC values of passion, integrity, excellence, gratitude and caring, is innovation. According to Taubie, innovation is only possible if there is a genuine culture of curiosity, freedom, and encouragement to break the rules and think out-of-the-box. All four women concur that this value was key to the survival of the pandemic, when the centre was closed for business for extended periods of time. Innovation enabled the CTICC to develop a robust and resilient attitude that helped reinvent and reposition its future.

Taubie stresses that future leaders, especially women, need to develop innovation as a core muscle within an organisation in order to be flexible and nimble enough to take on any challenge and opportunity.


MANDY:  ‘Allow yourself to fail; it results in valuable experiences and wisdom.’

‘LILLIAN:  Always ask: Did you hurt anyone with the decision you made?’

TRACY:  ‘Actively practice self-love and self- respect while you empower others.’

TAUBIE: ‘Trust your instincts and get rid of the self-doubt. You are enough, and perfect as you are!’


Founded: 2003
Employees: 198
Women Employees: 102 out of 198 (51,5%)
Shareholders: City of Cape Town; Western Cape Province; Sun West International
Spaces: The CTICC complex is 140,855 square metres, comprising two buildings, CTICC 1 and CTICC 2, connected by a Skybridge.


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