Here’s why I’m taking part in the SheEO sleepout

2017-08-08 22:40

Female representation within manufacturing and more specifically in management levels is generally still extremely unequal.

I am in a fortunate position to be able to challenge this and continuously fight for balancing the scales in my various roles within Mercedes-Benz South Africa. Having worked at the East London manufacturing plant since 2004 and moving through the various ranks I am now in the position, as the divisional manager for finance and controlling to be part of the senior management team. This allows me to support the creation of diversity and by bringing my opinion across; it perhaps makes my colleagues think in a different way and sometimes approach decisions a little differently from time to time with my female perspective.

As women I believe we have a duty to empower others and pave the way for the youth to be afforded more opportunities so that we can strive for a future generation of equal opportunity and empowerment.

I support this agenda through my role on the Transformation Forum and as the training officer for the chartered accountant trainee programme that I launched in 2008. As the training officer, I have been directly involved in mentoring several female trainees and in supporting the development of the future leaders of tomorrow.

I think it is vital that business shows interest in the future of this country, in order to attract new and retain the current investment and investor base, so that we can all together continue with the commitment to grow the economy and to better the lives of all South Africans.

Having said that, business has a mandate to work together with government institutions to look after the people’s needs holistically, this includes the social, economic and environmental needs. I truly believe that when we take care of each other, we stand a better chance to grow ourselves as well as to show the world what we can really achieve as South Africans.

Mercedes-Benz has a proud heritage and long manufacturing history in the country. However, we are not just about building cars to world class standards and selling the best products in the world, but extending our reach to nation-building and making a meaningful contribution to communities within which we operate.

As an interested corporate citizen, we continue with our commitment to support initiatives that aim to help the needy and vulnerable and promote a culture of trust, respect, transparency and integrity. We strongly believe that all of us have a role in building this wonderful country.

We are committed to the upliftment and development of women and ensuring they have equal opportunities to compete for positions that have typically been occupied by male counterparts. It is important to ensure gender diversity is embraced within every organisation by ensuring pipelines are equally balanced and that there is sufficient availability of qualified upskilled women in the workplace to be available to take up positions in higher levels.

I believe gender specific fast-track programmes need to be put in place to expedite the development of women to ensure that gender transformation picks up pace. Policies should be reviewed to make sure that various diversity based elements are considered and various areas of development should be a key focus area to ensure empowerment of women in the workplace. Female leaders need to be change agents and continue to challenge the in-equalities for promotion of development of opportunities for women to come.

Mercedes-Benz SA has participated in the She-EO SleepOut since inception and when our chief executive approached me this year I jumped at the opportunity.

With a female-focused theme it allows women from all walks of life to get together, to network and talk about the challenges facing us as women in South Africa and the world and what we can do about this. It is heart-wrenching that acts of gender-based violence are so ever present and occur on such a regular basis in today’s society. The sleepout comes at such an opportune time with the escalation of crimes against women and children to get together and unite against such acts.

We can no longer tolerate such abuse and we need to be change agents to educate others that this is not acceptable behaviour that no one, man or woman deserves such abuse. We have to stand together as women and speak out against such crimes.

The main beneficiary is also close to my heart and very closely linked to our scope of our own employee volunteering programme which I champion, where we focus closely on community upliftment, the homeless and abandoned children of all ages. This allows me to really identify with the cause and be able to reflect on exactly why we would be sleeping out on August 8.

Woodbridge is divisional manager of finance and controlling at Mercedes Benz

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March 18 2018