The automotive industry is perceived as an industry which is male dominated, for a variety of reasons which include the fact the men still dominate the majority of leadership roles at various businesses within the industry. However that does not take away from the fact that there are female leaders within the industry that are making their mark.
Female leadership is one of the transformation objectives and BBBEE intentions that we as South Africa are striving to achieve. This does not only relate to the automotive industry, but to a variety of industries that actively contribute to South Africa’s economy.
Women of every race have found themselves being oppressed in the past, as the belief in previous years dictated that women belong in the kitchen, others somehow believed that the main role of women was to serve their husbands and take care of their children. Over the years we have witnessed a significant shift in this narrative, women have come out in numbers, to redefine and educate their male counterparts and the society at large about their role, including the fact that they are capable of being the best that they can ever be.
Globally women both young and old, have empowered and educated themselves in order to take up space in very relevant leadership roles and acquire ownership of businesses. Women are now being represented in various roles within the labour market. In addition various studies have proven that gender diversity improves organisational performance.
On 9 August 1956, when more than 20 000 women marched to the Union Buildings in Pretoria to protest against unjust laws which were imposed on women in South Africa at the time, one would have thought that was done in futility. However if one has a look at the representation of women today, one can see that even though the representation of women still lags behind that of men, it is important to know that women are making inroads in furthering their careers and owning businesses within the industry.
In celebration of Women’s day, on 25 August of this year, the RMI hosted its first ever “Women with Drive” webinar, where women from all spheres of the industry gathered together to listen to empowering and inspirational women speak. All women who own or work for businesses within the automotive industry were welcome to attend, by doing so the webinar was attended by women occupying very senior to very junior occupations within respective businesses. It was truly inspirational to hear RMI President Jeánne Esterhuizen, and MISA CEO Martle Keyter speak about the conditions women had to work under in the past, as well as challenges and barriers they had to overcome, to lay a foundation for women who came after them.
Within the RMI and its structures, gender representation is taken very seriously and women occupy significant roles within the organisation. The leadership and board of the RMI has fair representation of women in it, women are also leaders within various committees of the organisation.
As an employer’s organisation the RMI has set an example to its members that women are capable and competent to lead and work within businesses and achieve efficient outcomes. In the past the automotive industry has been male dominated and for some reason there has been the perception that women are not good enough to perform some of the day to day duties that is expected from them. Fortunately we have seen many women defying the odds, proving that
women in this industry can excel. We have seen women acquiring skills that were predominantly performed by men and have made the best out of them, we have seen an increase in women owning businesses like electrical or mechanical
workshops and motor body repair shops and those businesses becoming a success. There is absolutely no reason to doubt the capabilities of women.
Society needs to understand that although the intention is to ensure that there is female representation within the labour market and business, the goal is not to write men off, however we have to redress the imbalances of the past whereby there was no participation and representation of women. At some point in time we will achieve the fairness and gender equality that we strive for. It is our responsibility as an organisation and a nation to ensure, that all individuals are protected against gender discrimination.