PORT ELIZABETH – As August marks Women’s Month, General Motors South Africa (GMSA) proudly reflects on the activities of the company’s Women’s Council, a year after launching the initiative.
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, explained Denise van Huyssteen, GM Africa Communication Manager and chairman of the Women’s Council at GMSA.
Over the past year several women in the organisation 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.
To date, more than half of its female employees have participated in these initiatives.
Van Huyssteen said the key to the Women’s Council’s success can be attributed to the support from top leadership and the fact that programmes are open to both men and women.
“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 forums and tools,” said Van Huyssteen.
Plans are now afoot to take the council to the next level by developing and operating an effective platform to empower women working at GMSA to be more aligned with the business and to identify ways to better reach female customers Van Huyssteen added.
Women have become important players when it comes to purchasing decisions. “Through the Women’s Council we want to capacitate our female employees and sharpen our focus externally, to the female customer.”
She added that motor manufacturing has traditionally attracted more male employees due to the technical nature of the jobs. However, in an era where women follow the same careers as men this picture is slowly changing.
With an increased focus on career development and progression for females, GMSA has made good strides in placing women in strategic positions. During the past year alone, 80% of management appointments were female. In addition, Van Huyssteen said 14 female employees are currently being mentored by senior company leaders.