On Thursday, 9 August 1956, 20 000 South African women from all races marched to the Union Buildings in Pretoria in protest against the country’s apartheid Pass Law of the time. Fast-forward 60 years, and modern South Africa paints a different picture entirely – especially where the rights of women and gender inequality is concerned. Every year on the 9th of August we celebrate National Women’s Day, which falls within Women’s Month, to commemorate and celebrate the brave women who went before us.
And just as these women – and countless more throughout the ages - were in search of freedom, justice and equality, Ina van der Merwe, Director and CEO of Managed Integrity Evaluation (MIE), the largest and oldest background screening organisation in South Africa, feels equally as passionate about the role of women in society.
“A woman with a dream and a voice is a force to be reckoned with,” says van der Merwe, once a small-town girl from Heidelberg herself. “As someone who has successfully managed a business for the last 28 years, I can honestly say that it just gets better and better. Women have what it takes to be leaders. And we do it so well because of our innate ability to nurture and grow anything - our surroundings, families, employees, companies, ideas and dreams.”
From her love and passion for people, and the plight of the minority, Ina pursued a career as a social worker after she graduated from the University of Pretoria in 1976. After 8 years of working as a social worker; Ina started pursuing other job opportunities in South Africa’s business sector.
“In 1985, I started working at InfoPlan (now called the State Information Technology Agency) as a Security Clearance Consultant. It was here that I discovered my interest in the background screening industry,” adds Ina. “This industry, not unlike my years as a social worker, once again stirred something within me, as it echoes themes of protection, justice and equality. This time not so much where the direct plight of families was concerned, but instead a fight for and the protection of the interest of countless businesses, South Africa’s workforce at large and Government institutions.”
Fuelled by this passion and armed with a plan, the entrepreneurial Ina founded MIE in 1988, identifying the need for background screening services in the private sector.
“As you can imagine, there was no real need or even a place for background screening services in 1988, and MIE conducted a mere 500 checks that year. However, I could not – no, would not – let that discourage me. I had, as the saying goes, ‘seen too much’. I had witnessed the true cost of the private sector continuing to employ unfit candidates without even knowing if these individuals completed school, let alone had a criminal record.”
Twenty-eight years later, and Ina has successfully grown MIE to the powerful tour de force it is today. During the period of 2013 to June 2016 alone, the company completed over 9.1 million background screening transactions. This ranges from qualification checks to credit checks and criminal record checks – and everything in-between, depending on companies’ individual needs and requests.
“Of course I am happy that South Africa’s workforce at large is taking employment fraud seriously. The impact of not doing thorough background screening checks may have abysmal consequences for businesses – financially as well as for their reputation,” concludes Ina. ‘’As the CEO of MIE – a company consisting 90% of women - my primary roles is of course to grow the company, generate wealth for our shareholders and provide critical services to both our clients and the country as a whole. Beyond that, I am at my happiest when I think about the 90 people who work for MIE, and the fact that I am enabling them to contribute to safe households, the education of their children and put food on the table. This is what I hope will one day be my legacy.”