Stellenbosch University
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Remarkable women celebrated during Women's Month: Erika Hoffman
Author: E Els
Published: 24/08/2023

​Another remarkable woman who achieved several major milestones is Erika Hoffman. She started working at SU in 2000 at IMSTUS, which in 2013 became part of SUNCEP at the Faculty of Education. She retired at the end of 2022 but is remembered for her pioneering work.

Tell about your leadership roles and what challenges you have had as a woman.

I was the coordinator of the Advanced Education Certificate Programme ("ACE") and had to work with many Faculty of Natural Sciences and Education lecturers who are specialists in their respective scientific fields, and give them guidance on how the ACE program works, what the outcomes are and what was expected of them. I was chairman of the regional committee and coordinator of the Expo for Young Scientists in the Stellenbosch region for 22 years. Many adjustments had to be made over the years to remain relevant and launch initiatives in order to innovate. As a female lecturer, a certain mindset as well as absolute professionalism was necessary to always behave correctly towards education students in front of you, men and women of all races, all adults who are already in education and have their own families and responsibilities.

What advice do you have for women who are in leadership roles or who want to become a leader?

Don't just hand out tasks and assume they'll be done right, keep following up, keep communicating. Find out from someone who has received an assignment from you, how you can support them. Notice when someone in your team has made an effort and express appreciation. Nothing is more important than honesty and how you say something is just as important as what you say. Show respect to all people, always and set the example for your team by working the hardest of all.

How do you balance work and your personal life?

Looking after our family with three boys' school and sports interests and balancing it with work was difficult sometimes. At times it felt like I was just living from deadline to deadline. I relied on the reassurance of other women who assured me that it is normal to sometimes feel that you are only dealing with crises. I don't think there is a golden recipe, deal with the most pressing issue first and move on from there as soon as possible. Get used to less sleep than you prefer.

Who inspired you to take a leadership position?

I think that being in education naturally prepares one to be a leader. Teaching is hard work that teaches you many skills that you would never have developed otherwise. Colleagues who were an example to me and believed in me at the beginning of my career made a big difference in my life. I think having a good mentor is of great value.

Did you ever think at the beginning of your career that you would later fill a leadership role?

Although I held certain leadership positions at school, I can't say that I thought about my teaching profession in that way. I think things developed in a natural way for me.