Gumtree Auto hosted its inaugural Women in Autos conference on the 17th of August in Midrand, Johannesburg, featuring a host of speakers from the industry as well as numerous media and influencers.
Claire Cobbledick, who has recently been appointed as the online classifieds' first female Director-GM says that diversity is a core company value. "This event is our way of showing our commitment to both the automotive industry and its role players, as well as our commitment to transformation and equality in our business."
Delegates received goodie bags that were hand-made from native shweshwe fabric as part of an employment scheme aimed at women in the impoverished Dunoon area of Cape Town.
The event featured speakers that included Nissan GM of Sales and Operations, Liz Segal (who spoke as to why the industry needs women to succeed), Ford Motor Company CEM Maja Smith, influencer Juliet McGuire, founder of CarseatFullStop Mandy Miller, media and communications expert Janine Lazarus and celebrated businesswoman Buyi Leratadima.
Many of the speakers highlighted instances of sexism and prejudice that they continue to face as women in the autos industry, with some delegates saying that there are few "safe spaces" for women to network and discuss their issues.
The conference also included a panel discussion, featuring Marcia Mayaba (the first black female Dealer principal in South Africa) and Desh Bechan (the first female motoring journalist of Indian descent in South Africa). After the panel Gumtree bestowed awards of recognition on several industry leaders, such as Peggie Mars (Founder of WheelWell), motoring editor Liana Reiners, renowned motoring journalists Charleen Clarke and Juliet McGuire, safety advocate Mandy Miller, digital marketer Dineo Mofokeng and Liz Segal for her contribution at Nissan Africa. "There is a saying that a successful woman is one who builds bridges using the rocks that are thrown at them," Cobbledick said before handing over the awards. "From the stories we've heard today, it's clear that these women have done so."
Many delegates also emphasized the need for women to pass the torch to the next generation, making sure that more females will enter the automotive space in 2019. "There are 80 women in this room today," said panellist Marcia Mayaba. "We need to think about what we are going to do to ensure that we double that number next time we meet."
Cobbledick says that the company has plans to extend and repeat the Women in Autos event in both Cape Town and Johannesburg next year.
"The automotive sector is crucially important to our business," says Cobbledick. "Over 1.9 million South Africans visit the platform every month, with thousands of dealers, brokers and private sellers making use of the site to sell their stock. The Women in Autos Conference has been the sixth automotive event we've hosted in 2018, concluding our Digital Dealer Roadshows that have been held in cities all around the country since March. In October, we'll be hosting the Gumtree Pre-Owned Car Awards for the second year, bigger and better than before. In November, we'll again be the headline sponsor of the FIA World RallyCross event in Cape Town. Gumtree is becoming synonymous with everything automotive, and we don't have any plans to slow down."