Creating Change for Women in South Africa: Pearl Motaung-Mlangeni

Pearl Motaung-Mlangeni, the General Manager of the four-star My Pond Hotel by Stenden South Africa, on the banks of the Kowie River in Port Alfred in the heart of the "Sun Coast," is on a mission to become the change she wants to see in the hospitality industry.

Pearl Motaung-Mlangeni

In a recent LinkedIn post, she said, "We must move from 'TALKING' about #womenempowerement but rather ACT on it. All the discussions and topics must now come to life. We have a long way to go with #equalityanddiversity it's up to us to make it happen. We will eventually win this war!!! Until then, let's continue to be the CHANGE we have been preaching." She believes education is the key.

"We must move from 'TALKING' about #womenempowerement but rather ACT on it. All the discussions and topics must now come to life. We have a long way to go with #equalityanddiversity it's up to us to make it happen. We will eventually win this war!!! Until then, let's continue to be the CHANGE we have been preaching."

In her position as GM, she is working with students of Stenden SA (a branch campus of Stenden University of Applied Sciences in The Netherlands), combining a curriculum of real-world learning experiences and classroom work. This combination allows students to land prestigious internships, increasing their chances of finding full-time work after they graduate, which most do. The program is very much focused on women, in particular, to provide them with the expertise and knowledge, to ensure that no one is at a disadvantage due to a lack of either of these two things.


Pearl has won numerous awards for her advocacy work and was recently named one of the "Top 10 African Female Trailblazers to watch in Tourism 2022" by The Pyne Awards. We chat with Pearl to learn more about herstory.


What drew you to a career in hospitality?

I was fascinated by female executive chefs and I wanted to be amongst the first females to run a big commercial kitchen. At age 13, I applied to a Hotelkeeping & Tourism school for my secondary education. This helped me to pursue Hospitality Management. I have always had a love for service. I loved how people served in restaurants, and I knew I wanted to be in those Kitchens producing those beautiful dishes, which of course did not materialize as planned. I fell in love with front-of-house, guest interaction. And I worked my way up to running hotels!


When did you start the University partnership/student program?

Throughout my career, in various properties; I have worked with students on internships and it has always been so fulfilling to impart knowledge and skills to them. This is why joining Stenden SA in 2021 made so much sense, that I should be GM for the hotel that also trains students.


How many students have been through the program?

700+ Students have graduated from the Hospitality Management Programme.


Are they all women?

No, but the program skews female––60:40 women to men.

Pearl Motaung-Mlangeni South Africa
Pearl with her students. From the back: Yolisa Nqebe, Yael Buchman. Second row – Chien-Chien Wu, Priyanka Lalla. Pearl in the front.

How are you hoping to change the industry in South Africa?

In my career of over two decades, I have personally faced times where I have been discriminated against either for my race or my sex. Every day, I continue to advocate for a fair environment without barriers. Inclusion and equality through training, mentorship, and being an agent for change. I want to go down in history as someone who had an impact on the changes seen in the sector. Here are some of the pillars:

  • Diversity and Inclusion. Our sector is driven by passion and service; therefore, we should push these two factors to ensure everyone has equal opportunity. Hospitality and tourism's warmth don't let us close doors for anyone. All ethnicities, genders, and beliefs must be embraced since we all speak SERVICE. Never exclude our girls.

  • Women Empowerment. We place a high priority on the professional growth of women as part of our effort to improve gender parity in executive positions. We make sure women have the same chances and flexibility as men to make decisions and control their careers. We teach men about women's potential and how they can provide a bias-free environment.

  • Community Development. Communities shape us. For corporate sustainability and teamwork, we must educate the future generation. Together, we can do anything. This topic involves several factors. Stenden South Africa offers a minor in Community Development, which emphasizes the value of community in business. We make sure our students grasp cultural/political aspects and how they affect business. Translating in their role as future leaders in our society.

What changes have you already seen taking place?

More women are taking up executive space in the sector. Women have gained better confidence to fight for their seat at the table. Most junior management positions have women now, and the ratios are slowly being rectified.


What is next for you?

Along with running the program with Stenden SA, I am on the Advisory Board of the African Association of Women in Tourism and Hospitality (AAWTH). This is a great platform to discuss and action all initiatives aimed at women empowerment and further the "upskill women mandate." I continue to mentor girls through education/skills development and leadership. My main objective is to ensure that women have equal opportunities in the industry, by continuing to share my knowledge and skills with the future hoteliers of South Africa.