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Priscillah Mabelane knew when she was a teenager in South Africa that she wanted to be a chartered accountant, a career path her father didn’t understand. She’s achieved her goal and then some, after being named South Africa BP’s first female CEO becoming the first woman to do so in South Africa’s oil industry.

Mabelane grew up in the northern province of Limpopo, working part-time with her office worker father and learning the ins and outs of business. Her first corporate job started with the accounting firm Ernst & Young. According to her own accounts and other reports, Mabelane endured both lingering racism and rampant sexism.

Undeterred, the hard-working Mabelane excelled at the firm and other South African entities such as Airports Company of South Africa among others. Holding key executive positions over the course of the past two decades, Mabelane was groomed early on for her current role.

Mabelane came to South Africa BP in 2011 as its interim Chief Financial Officer, and moved up the ranks to be named the company’s CEO this past September.

While happy to have the title, Mabelane told outlet Fin24.com that it was exceptionally disappointing” that her appointment as South Africa BP’s CEO made headlines. She hopes that one day success stories like hers will be normalized. She added that the racism and sexism is still a barrier in her industry and in her home country, but believes that hard work and will power can trump all.

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