Ruth Butaumocho HerStory
When Susan Makore was growing up, she never envisaged her career beyond a classroom, dabbling with the chalkboard in front of a group of impressionable pupils. Her dream was to follow in her father’s footsteps and become a teacher. Two decades after mapping her career path, Susan has managed to fulfil her aspirations – albeit in a different way – and also got more than she had anticipated.
She has made her mark in the media not only as a media practitioner, but also as an academic, stemming from her lecturing experience at the Zimbabwe Open University and the University of Zimbabwe.
Susan is the chief executive officer of African Business Communications (ABC), a powerful position that puts her among few media women who have managed to attain such positions.
African Business Communications is the holding company for ZiFM Stereo and Mighty Movies.
“It has been a long trudge but also a worthwhile experience that I cherish,” she said in an interview recently.
Probably Susan’s greatest strength that gave her a competitive edge against other contenders for the job was her broadcasting and theoretical experience as well as her unparalleled passion to excel in media in the same way that her peers had done.
“It was during my secondary education that I realised that I just didn’t want to be a mere teacher, but something much more than that. I then made a conscious decision to brand myself and aim higher.
“My anxiety to find something suitable was heightened while at university when I realised that several of my former school mates at Mabelreign Girls High were now into broadcasting and were doing well. These included Abigail Mvududu, Cleo Tsimba and Christine Taruvinga.”
Realising that she didn’t have a suitable voice for broadcasting, Susan enrolled for a Postgraduate Diploma in Media and Communication Studies with the UZ and subsequently for the master’s programme in the same field soon after completing a degree in English and History, to enable her to take up a lecturing post in Media Studies – her new found passion.
It was while she was lecturing at the University of Zimbabwe in 2001 that an opportunity to work for a fully-fledged media organisation came about.
“I was appointed to head Kidznet, a strategic unit at ZBC responsible for programmes for children between the ages of four and 18.
“These were exciting times for me, especially working with children who showed so much enthusiasm in their work, kids who were willing to go the extra mile to ensure that their work was done,” she recalled.
Susan is credited for grooming young and talented broadcasters like Tino Chimbetete, Makanaka Wakatama, Oslie Muringani, Rhymes and Esther Kusema in line with the broadcaster’s vision.
During her tenure at ZBC, Susan used every opportunity that her different portfolios presented to amass experience in broadcasting and by the time she called it quits in 2006, she already had a treasure trove in broadcasting.
Although she rejoined the University of Zimbabwe in 2007 to co-ordinate the Media Studies programme, her heart was still in broadcasting.
The experience, coupled with her academic background, enabled her to further brand herself.
It therefore did not come as a surprise to those who knew her when she was appointed managing director of Mighty Movies in 2008.
“When I joined Mighty Movies, Zimbabwe was going through an interesting period, with the nation preparing for the opening up of the airwaves.
Naturally, I was elated because I wanted to be part of the history, part of the people who were going to be credited for being the new voices in broadcasting.
“As an organisation, we had proved to be capable as attested by the number of projects that we (Mighty Movies) were running. We were doing news productions for Al Jazeera and SABC, television programmes for ZBC, lots of advertisements for corporates as well as a number of documentaries for renowned organisations.
“With the experience I had gained from ZBC and the competent staff complement we had, we were close to making history,” she recalled.
However, that was not to be. In fact, a different opportunity emerged when Susan was appointed a board member of the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe, the licensing authority.
That, however, did not stop her from gunning for her passion. Three years later, she moved a ladder higher after she was appointed the chief executive officer of ABC, to replace Honourable Supa Mandiwanzira following his appointment as the Deputy Minister of Media, Information and Broadcasting Services.
Today she stands tall among some of Zimbabwe’s few female media practitioners who have pushed the boundaries and managed to carve a niche for themselves in the media industry.
“Zimbabwean media has had a lot of powerful women who have scaled to great heights and put the country on the global map. We have women like Busi Chindove, the late Mbuya (Miriam) Mlambo, Dorcas Chibanda, Alice Mutema, the late Alyce Chavunduka, Mavis Moyo and several others, who have done so well.
“Yes, I have made my contribution in the media, a feat I attribute to good mentoring from my predecessor.
“I have had a lot of hand-holding from my predecessor who is a good trainer and is generous with ideas.
“It might no longer be as frequent as it used to be, but I have received a lot of assistance. I also love what I do, that I hardly notice the workload in my tray,” she enthused.
Susan, however, concedes that heading such a big organisation has not been without challenges. She has had to deal with issues of ego from her team and brushing aside gender stereotyping she endures from male colleagues in high profile meetings.
“In broadcasting, everyone is a celeb or a top personality with an ego. So, sometimes we have to revisit the rules and define the parameters with my team, being cognisant of the fact that we have to constantly build, mould and push the brand out there on the market.
“It is within the same vein that I have attended meetings where I am the only lady or there are a few women and the moderator or chairperson keeps on referring to the whole group as “gentlemen”.
“I have on several occasions been asked to take down minutes of the meeting, because I happen to be the only woman in the meeting. In some instances, men will just overlook you in terms of skills although you may actually possess the requisite skills they are looking for.
“Gender stereotyping is heavily ingrained in the media, where journalists ask you to explain how you juggle your roles as a mother, wife and an executive. Funny enough, no one asks male executives such questions,” Susan said.
Despite the occasional interruptions that come with the job, Susan is not distracted. She hopes to become an employer in the future.
“Zim-Asset must have a personal meaning to all of us, so I am planning to create employment while also fulfilling a personal goal,” she said.
Susan Makore is married and has two children.