In a recent article, the Motor Industry Staff Association (MISA) called on the South African retail motor industry to accelerate gender equality in the sector. Jeanne Esterhuizen, President of the Retail Motor Industry Organisation (RMI), says there is still much to be done, adding that the RMI is working closely with MISA to promote the necessary change.
Esterhuizen explains that Employment Equity and Legislation that supports gender equality only applies to designated employers so a large portion of small and medium sized employers do not have to comply. The same principle applies to BBB-EE Legislation.
“A more focused approach is required by all companies to train and promote women at a lower level to managerial and executive level. At company level, sexual harassment policies and policies addressing all forms of discrimination must be implemented to ensure women are not disadvantaged should they have ambitions to fill high-end jobs,” she says.
The current stumbling block, she believes, is the entrenchments of gender discrimination in cultural biases. “Men in certain cultures find it difficult to report to women in superior positions.” Sadly, she says, women in general don’t feel welcome in the industry due to archaic male behaviour that is still alive and well in South Africa.
“I don’t believe women should randomly be pushed forward if they do not have the requisite skills or ambition to operate in historic male positions in the workplace. Rather those that have the strength of character, talent and the will power to succeed in a challenging environment should be given the opportunity to be developed into leadership positions predominantly filled by men.”
She highlights that the RMI and MISA in a joint initiative have embarked on gender equality training provided by an external training provider for all management and staff of RMI-affiliated members and MISA members employed by these RMI member businesses. This training takes place across all regions in which the RMI operates including KZN, the Eastern Cape, the Free State and Northern Cape, the Northern and Highveld Region, and the Western Cape.
“We realise that we need to start from within the leadership of the sector and grow it from there,” says Esterhuizen.
“Our objectives are not only to strengthen the knowledge base regarding gender equality but to promote a gender equality enabling environment in the workplace. We want to create a strong network of champions for gender equality in the motor industry in SA and strengthen the agency of men in promoting gender equality.”
“We have to foster mind-set changes and get in line with global thinking,” she adds.
While things are in motion, Esterhuizen says there is still much to be done. “The industry has been male-dominated for more than 100 years so the change is slow. But that’s no excuse. We will continue to put pressure on the industry to bring about real change not just for those women in the industry now but for all the women that will enter the industry in the future,” she concludes.