KFC’s transformation, diversity and inclusion director, Akhona Qengqe chats to us about her career. By Fundiswa Nkwanyana
I have always been passionate about opportunities. I was born and bred in Mthatha, Eastern Cape. As a little girl, I was always eager to try new things because I enjoyed figuring out what it would lead to. I was amazed that every time I grabbed a new opportunity, the results were positive and life changing. As I grew older, this stayed with me until it became an integral part of my career.
My role at KFC is to guide the organisation in creating more opportunities. I work closely with franchise partners, suppliers, beneficiaries and stakeholders. My main objective is to advocate for diversity and inclusion. I help the business create opportunities for previously excluded individuals and entities. I ensure that I am well informed of any emerging discourse around diversity and inclusion, and advise the business accordingly. I make the business accountable for their decisions around diversity and inclusion.
Making people be aware of their behaviours is one of my biggest challenges. Helping them be mindful of how they think about those that are different to them, and ensuring that they don’t make them feel less significant based on their differences, is challenging. I overcome this by encouraging the business to focus on how we can be more inclusive by being aware of what we do, say and think. This job is very close to my heart, and I love it because helping people and the business is important to me.
Curiosity helped me climb the corporate ladder to being a director. I’m interested to know how things work, and I go out of my way to find out. I realised that employers value this characteristic, and because of this they gave me opportunities to explore and grow. Career coaching also helped me reflect and find ways to improve myself. It takes hard work and resilience to make it in the corporate sector. Learning to embrace stepping out of a comfort zone has helped me.