Brian Joss –
Public Protector, Advocate Thuli Madonsela, addressed employees of General Motors South Africa (GMSA) on the role of women in the workplace at the GMSA Struandale plant, in Port Elizabeth, this week.
Madonsela was the guest speaker at the one year anniversary celebrations of the GMSA Women’s Council.
The role of the Women’s Council, which is a global GM initiative, is to empower female employees through training, mentoring, career information and advice as well as industry and product knowledge.
In discussing the role of women in the workplace, Madonsela reflected on South Africa’s proud heritage. She said in order to realise the South African Dream, it is up to the state, the individual and Corporate South Africa to create enabling environments for people to improve their quality of life.
“In the workplace we need to make sure that men and women operate optimally. It is not only women that are oppressed by gender inequality, but men too.
“As a society we need to embrace diversity and allow people to be themselves. If a woman chooses to do a job that is traditionally perceived to be a man’s job she should be allowed to do so. In the same way that the role of a woman expands in the workplace, the role of a man should expand in the kitchen.”
GM Africa Communication Manager and chairman of the Women’s Council at GM International, Denise van Huyssteen, said the Council played a major role in advocating equity and female empowerment in the workplace and beyond.
To date more than half of its female employees have participated in technical training for non-technical people, off-road driver training, safe driver training, work-life balance seminars, psychological and financial wellbeing programmes and simulated manufacturing courses.
“We are promoting a work environment focused on diversity and inclusivity by embracing South Africa’s unique cultures as a growth opportunity and providing education to strengthen GMSA women’s business acumen with access to key information and expertise.
“We want to be the workplace of choice for women by creating awareness, acceptance and progression through senior level mentoring, individual development and training and by educating leadership and employees through initiatives such as unconscious bias and micro aggressions training, myth busters, and why diversity matters,” said Van Huyssteen.
Since women have become important role players when it comes to purchasing decisions, influencing an estimated 70% of vehicle purchasing, the Women’s Council are working on ways to better reach the female customer. “Our strategy is to leverage every opportunity to sell vehicles to more women,” Van Huyssteen added.
Furthermore, GMSA has made good strides in placing women in strategic positions. During the past year 80% of management appointments were female. In addition, 14 female employees are currently being mentored by senior company leaders.
Van Huyssteen attributed the success of the Women’s Council to the support from top leadership and to the fact that programmes are open to both men and women.