Nissan South Africa’s Women of Steel powered their way through a difficult year, all while continuing to challenge the status quo

ROSSLYN, South Africa, 08 March 2021 – We are all trying to forget 2020. But for so many women making their way through the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 was the year of challenge, the year of fighting against gender inequality, and the year of overcoming all the obstacles in their path. In a world where women’s achievements are so often underplayed, there is nothing more important than choosing to challenge.

This International Women’s Day (IWD) on 8 March, we believe the IWD’s central theme of choosing to challenge gender inequality at all levels has never been more important. By challenging society, industry and ourselves, we can choose to create a more inclusive world, create more awareness of women’s issues – and their achievements – and limit the bias they face every day.

The automotive industry is changing, and at Nissan South Africa (NSA), our women employees – our “Women of Steel” – have shown just how integral they are to growing and improving the sector.

Since the opening of our manufacturing plant in Rosslyn, Pretoria, our focus was to ensure that we would always have a 50/50 gender split in our training programs, allowing up-and-comers to make it to the top regardless of their gender.

This plant was upgraded as part of our plans to build the Nissan Navara locally and modernise our lineup, and we have seen the way in which women – at all levels of the business – have made this project succeed, all while enduring two waves of COVID-19.

Senior Manager, Chantelle Mashego, has spent more than a decade between Nissan South Africa and Nissan Spain, and with her engineering background has ascended the ranks and is now a vital part of delivering the Navara.

“I’ve worked at so many levels of the business, from being a contracted engineer to my roles in vehicle quality, and now management. I believe that all women need to realise that they have the power to rise to the top, and we need to make room for them there,” said Mashego.

“I’ll be honest that COVID-19 and its implications have challenged us but our South African perseverance and ‘can-do-spirit’ continues to win the day. Every day, I’m encouraged by my team members who show up for work ready to give it their all,” she said.

Melicia Bala, NSA’s Human Resources Lead, has made it her mission to ensure that the achievements of young women entering the industry are recognised – and rewarded. “We have always done our utmost to be the employer of choice for young women, and we want to attract the best talent and allow them to flourish,” said Bala.

“Through intensive training programs, like our Automotive Industry Development Centre, we want to make sure that they are able to develop their skills and compete with the very best. Because with enough support, we can help young people – young women – grow, even through a global pandemic,” she said.

Chief Marketing Manager Light Commercial Vehicles and Sporty Utility Vehicles at Nissan South Africa, Liz Gorbunov, has said she believes the only way to change perceptions around women in the industry is to empower young women and provide them with real mentorship. “When a person rises to the level of executive, you have to realise that this comes with responsibility. We have to work with the young women in our industry, to help them see the pitfalls and avoid them. We want them to feel like they can speak up, they can choose to challenge when they are mistreated. By making this the norm, we make it even easier for the next generation of young women,” said Gorbunov.

Lizette Crause, NSA General Manager of Customer Quality and Dealer Network Development, has seen how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected her colleagues and NSA’s networks.

“This was an incredibly difficult year for our business, but what has been inspiring is seeing my colleagues really balance their work lives and their home lives so well. For some of them, particularly the women, this has been a delicate balancing act that I hope we won’t have to repeat in 2021,” said Crause.

At Nissan South Africa, we encourage our employees to continue challenging the pre-conceived notions about women in the industry, and hope that we can continue to support them as they #ChooseToChallenge.