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Photo: Vana Ash, Unsplash

Women in workshops

A salute to the fabulous females making magic in our workshops, in time for Women’s Month.

August is Women’s month and what better way to celebrate than by saluting the wonderful women in our workshops?

Where once workshops were seen as a distinctly male environment, women are playing an increasing role in the aftermarket industry.

Ask any of the women who have forged exciting, dynamic careers in this field, and they’ll tell you it’s not surprising. After all, cars are as fascinating as they are beautiful – why wouldn’t women enjoy them?

More than that, women are able to bring a certain finesse to the field, which is often lacking amongst their male counterparts. Their ability to connect with customers on an emotional level is a considerable asset, as is their thorough approach to the work. Small wonder, then, that women are establishing a presence in all areas of the industry; beyond traditional roles like HR and admin to owning workshops.

At a time when unemployment is so rife, this is a sector that is showing encouraging growth and providing some real opportunities.  Eighty percent of accredited RMI business owners, of which MIWA is a proud association, are in fact small to medium size business owners and this is where the growth and employment opportunities that are going to drive the economy will come from. The sector is already peppered with countless vibrant examples.

Andrea Bogner, owner of Bogner Motor City Truck and Car Workshop, with Christo Botha, Paris Baloyi and Thabo Ngwenya.

Take Andrea Bogner, owner of Bogner Motor City Truck and Car Workshop, says having women in the sector is refreshing and challenging. “I find women have a different touch and deal more emotionally when it comes to serving customers, maintaining them, and offering peace of mind. We are also thorough when it comes to procedures and the manner in which work is performed,” she says. Andrea loves to be different and loves having her workshop. “It is not only a business, but I see it as my family. I involve every one of them in the decisions I’m making and ask for their input, feedback and suggestions. We are a team and operate as one. If there’s a goal to be reached, everyone is involved. If there are issues, again, I involve everyone so that the best possible solutions are found. And lastly, everyone has to take responsibility for their actions.”

Simphiwe Mncube, founder and managing director at Baleka Motors.

Simphiwe Mncube, founder and managing director at Baleka Motors says that having noticed the male-dominated nature of the industry, she saw the gap for a woman’s touch. With help from her partner, she has successfully built both the Baleka team and the brand itself. Simphiwe’s approach to leadership is simple: since this is a matter where influence is all-important, it is critical to be clear on your vision and share it with your team. Work-life balance, on the other hand, is less cut and dried, especially when you are trying to grow a business. Simphiwe remains inspired to work at this because she understands that in order to be happy professionally, she has to be healthy on a personal level. Accepting this makes it easier to schedule downtime. Her advice to other women eyeing the industry? “It can be done! It’s all about attitude and commitment. Be faithful to your dreams by showing up every day.” Her own motivation to keep showing up is driven partly by discipline, and partly by her acknowledgement that her dream is bigger than her. “We all have an audience, and someone out there is holding on because I am not giving up.”

Bridgett Finn, HR and finance manager at Finn Auto Repairs and Diagnostics, with her 1960 Porsche 356.

Bridget Finn is HR and finance manager at Finn Auto Repairs and Diagnostics, a position she came to after filling many roles at different companies. “No matter what job I had, there was always some learning I could take away and use in future positions. This has helped me grow in my skills,” she reflects. When her husband opened his business 12 years ago, she realized that the time had come to put those skills into play. Bridget says that working in a family-owned business can be tough, as you tend to take work home with you. That’s why it’s important to set boundaries: there is a time for discussing work matters, and a time for recreation and socialising. And, when things get tough, you need to keep going. “We are so much stronger than we realise. Giving up will never get us anywhere, so get up, brush yourself off and keep going.” This advice is especially important for young women intent on succeeding in business. “Nothing should define or limit you. Women are capable of doing anything they put their minds to, so don’t make room for other people’s opinions, traditions or history. Being a woman is a strength, not a weakness – but don’t ever confuse this for arrogance. Make yourself proud.”

Dineo, CFO and HR manager, and Keneuwe Glamane, CEO and operations manager of Womech.

Both Dineo and Keneuwe Glamane
grew up with a dream of opening their own business. But they had no idea what it would be. As fate had it – they got a break to enter the motor industry and today they own, Womech (Women in Mechanics), an independent aftermarket workshop in Secunda which they opened in 2017. 

Their journey started when they received a bursary to do Auto Electrical after completing their N6 of electrical engineering.  A year later, while completing the auto electrical course, they got an apprenticeship at Value Logistics and were offered the positions of auto electrician and diesel mechanic. This was where the idea of opening a workshop in the future really started. They took the opportunity to do the apprenticeship and the rest is history. Dineo is currently the CFO and HR manager of Womech while Keneuwe is the CEO as well as the Operations Manager. Their advice to young women out there is not to limit themselves and to take whatever opportunities come their way.

Carol Radloff, general manager at Ian’s Auto Clinic.

For Carol Radloff, general manager at Ian’s Auto Clinic, the secret to success lies in pushing hard and being thankful for your blessings. Carol says that she earned her position through faith, hard work, patience, perseverance and support from her family; a journey that has taught her to use her faith and try, always, to be the best version of herself. She is also a strong believer in expressing gratitude for all the positive gifts in her life. Her motto? “You have been blessed with a new day. Use it to make a difference in your life.”

Teresa Spenser Higgs, co-owner and manager at D&T Servicing, as well as Chairperson at MIWA Border, MIWA NEC member, and EXCO member of Eastern Cape RMI.

The last word goes to Teresa Spenser-Higgs. Teresa’s name will be familiar to all members of MIWA Border, which she chairs. She is also a MIWA NEC member, and an EXCO member of Eastern Cape RMI. And, if that’s not enough to keep her busy, she is co-owner and office manager of D&T Servicing – Autocare and Diagnostics. Given her busy schedule, balance is a big deal for Spenser-Higgs, which is why she relishes the time spent at her home far from the city centre, surrounded by her five dogs and four cats. She also enjoys painting during her downtime.

Passionate as she is about her job, she enjoys the challenges it presents and makes a point of seizing every opportunity to learn more about the industry. She is especially focused on training young technicians, as this is critical for the longevity of the industry, she maintains: “My husband was injured in a car accident and was told that he would never be able to become a technician, because of his injuries. If someone had not given him the opportunity, or taken the risk of signing him on, we wouldn’t be working in this industry. That’s why I feel it’s our duty to pay it forward and create opportunities for others.” Teresa brushes aside any notion that, as a woman in the industry, she may face more challenges. “I know women always say we want equality, but I don’t mind being the fairer sex in this industry. I know I bring a different dynamic to the table. I say embrace our differences and our strengths – this is what makes us stand out.”