In celebration of Women’s Month in August, Ford South Africa has been celebrating women who are pioneers in their respective vocations.
South Africa has made considerable progress in the advocacy for gender equality in the workplace, and more specifically in the automotive industry. According to the Motor Industry Staff Association (MISA), the percentage of women in the motor industry has been steadily increasing in recent years.
Although this is progressive, there is still scope for improvement as evidenced in a study undertaken by LeanIn.Org and McKinsey - Women in the Workplace 2020 - which found that senior-level women are facing heightened pressure both at work and home and the pandemic may be amplifying biases women have faced for years..
In light of these challenges, Ford South Africa is committed to ensuring equal career opportunities for female employees in the workplace, by increasing the ratio of female to male engineers, and diversifying these roles to be more inclusive of women in the automotive industry as a whole.
“Although South Africa’s history is riddled with gender inequality issues in the workplace, Ford is a company that advocates for the dialogue around inequalities against women and gender prejudices that continue to suppress this country. This is backed by Ford’s goal to increase women in engineering and to diversify Ford’s female to male employee ratio on all levels of the business,” says Esther Buthelezi, Government Affairs and Transformation director at Ford South Africa.
Ford is proactively supporting women in the workplace by promoting awareness of the innovative job positions that the engineering and the automotive industry have to offer. In celebration of women achieving remarkable strides, Buthelezi references three leading women in the automotive field who serve as pioneers in their respective areas.
“We have a lot of women who are the first in their positions, but our goal is to see many more women progressing into these occupations and roles in the future,” says Buthelezi.
Yota Baron is one such example, she was recently appointed as the first female Chief Financial Officer (CFO) at Ford South Africa. “Yota is not only our first female CFO she is also the first woman in her family to have attended university,” Buthelezi adds.
“Being the first female in my family to graduate from university was a great privilege,” explains Yota. “I would like to focus on paying forward that which I have been so privileged to learn over the years both locally and abroad by working with young people and inspiring them to believe they can achieve anything they set their minds to.”
Yulia Varchuck and Carol Mabuse are two other Ford ladies blazing a trail at Ford. Varchuck is the first woman in South African to become the Trim Chassis and Final (TCF) Vehicle Operations Manufacturing Engineering facility manager. In 2011 she was appointed the first female in the manufacturing division of Ford Russia.
“As a woman in a male dominated industry, it is easy to fall into the trap of doubting yourself, but having confidence in your own abilities allows others to share in that confidence. I therefore urge other women to be confident and assured in their leadership,” adds Varchuck.
Mabuse has held various leadership positions in the manufacturing space at Ford, including Body Construction Production Team Manager, Lead in Trim Chassis and Final (TCF), Vehicle Evaluation Manager in the Quality team and currently Paint Manufacturing Engineering Manager.
“I am extremely grateful for the opportunities I have received from Ford. Looking around the shop floor it is incredible to see how many women there are in such a variety of positions and vocations. I look forward to seeing even more women entering the automotive sector in the future,” says Mabuse.
“Whether it is being the first woman to hold a particular position or providing women with training and educational opportunities that will enable their future progression, Ford is actively working towards bridging the gender divide in what is traditionally considered a male-dominated industry. Promoting an equal opportunity-enabling environment within the workplace is grounded in every aspect of our business as we strive to ensure every employee has the chance to develop and grow within the company, regardless of gender,” concludes Buthelezi.