Empowering Young Leaders: Insights from Colleen Larsen on Gender Mainstreaming and Corporate Success

Young Leaders Connect (YLC) IDEAL Book Club in partnership with Rand Merchant Bank, invited Colleen Larsen the CE of Business Engage as the guest speaker at their recent talk celebrating their second anniversary.

In true South African style guests listened attentively and soaked up all the information and inspiration shared.


After an introduction where Colleen touched on her upbringing from a humble working-class start, she chatted about her various jobs and professions as well as her life experiences and how Business Engage came to be.

Highlighting the turning point, assisting people reach their full potential was her calling. Starting with ten women at a time coming together to do financial literacy training, Business Engage has snowballed to the impactful and successful initiative it is today. Turning down a dream job she realised that Business Engage was her purpose and she had to make it work, not just for herself but for all other women.

The focus of the conversation was on the book “Gender Matters,” A Practical Response to the Slippery Ladder. Gender mainstreaming and the sustainable advancement of women in corporate and entrepreneurial roles is the crux of the author’s philosophy.

Be better, be ethical, be confident.


With an audience of young and mid-level professionals from different industries and backgrounds, the room was filled with bright young brains and faces. From the questions asked it was evident that these women have great aspirations to lead in the corporate and entrepreneurial workspaces.

The questions flooded in from these ambitious young women, who besides wanting and striving to achieve in the business world they know the importance of taking other people with them. Relying on mentors and appreciating the value of sponsors.

“Corporates do not practice gender mainstreaming because it is the right thing to do, they do it because it makes business sense. Gender mainstreaming needs the entire company to back the concept.”

Belonging is key, treating people equally does not go far enough; they need to feel they belong.

The Ideal book club lives by the saying “If you don’t read you can’t lead,” reading is fundamental in the advancement of life and especially careers, therefore Colleen’s book Gender Matters provided a lot of food for thought.


Gender mainstreaming is not about “men out women in,” it is about harmony and concentrating on strengths and good business acumen while building people as a whole.

Quotas will get you started, but they will not sustain the journey, and it is important to understand that nothing worthwhile happens overnight.

Consistently, deliberately, and with intention is the key to forging forward in any industry.

Do not imitate – innovate

In summary, be positive, have a plan, trust in yourself, and remember we are not here to fail; with the right support structure and belief, you will achieve. Be resilient and have courage, perfection is not always possible, be adaptable and always be yourself.

Speak up and speak out! It all starts with a simple conversation or a chance meeting.


To order a copy of Gender Matters visit: Gender Matters by Colleen Larsen or to book Colleen please contact her at colleen@businessengage.co.za