This Women’s Month, we celebrate the women who have the courage and tenacity to succeed in the male-dominated motor industry.
The motor industry has long been a male-dominated world, with women traditionally relegated to administrative roles, such as receptionists, personal assistants or bookkeepers. “That’s all changing,” says Tselane Halata, General Manager of Procurement and Motor Assessing at MiWay, “We need more companies in the industry to open doors for women intentionally.”
Two trailblazers are Savanna Govindasamay and Selinah Mtilene.
“I am very passionate about developing and mentoring women and young people in the community. We have successfully qualified female apprentices and were the first to qualify a female spray painter at the Trade Test Centre,” she says.
An early challenge was accessing finance. When the banks turned her down, she realized her only option was to get lots of clients, embarking on an aggressive marketing campaign targeting insurance companies and dealerships. They were not ready to trust a woman panel beater, but her service delivery and turnaround times soon won them over.
She also formed the WomanOnFire Panel Beaters Co-op to give women an opportunity to build a network.
Selinah Mtilene, the managing director of Diamond Panel Beaters, turned her husband’s towing business into a repair shop for the towed vehicles. She, too, found it impossible to access finance to purchase equipment, and had to save rigorously to buy the equipment insurance companies demand.
“It’s not easy and succeeding takes time,” she says. “All I can say is to push harder, believe in yourself and do not get distracted or demotivated – one day you will thank yourself for never giving up.”
MiWay’s Halata concludes, “Women must be seen as more than equals. We are strategic partners when it comes to advancing the industry.”