- Supa Sassy
Although South Africa’s past is peppered with gender inequality issues in the workplace, the country has made encouraging progress with increasing amount of women entering the automotive industry. This Women’s Month, we pay tribute to women who have made big strides and are paving the way forward.
Women paving the way in automotive
In alphabetical order:
Bronwyn Fynn – General Manager, Marketing
Bronwyn Fynn, the General Manager for Marketing at the FMGH Group has only two years in the motor industry and was recently nominated for the Motoring Women Of The Year Awards 2022. At FMGH Group, she is responsible for Marketing & Communications at Volvo Cars Hillcrest, Volvo Cars Pietermaritzburg and Fiat Chrysler Hillcrest.
Carol Mabuse – Paint Manufacturing Engineering Manager
Carol Mabuse is Paint Manufacturing Engineering Manager at Ford, having made her way in the company in various leadership positions including Body Construction Production Team Manager, Lead in Trim Chassis and Final (TCF), and Vehicle Evaluation Manager in the quality team.
Chantelle Mashego – Senior Manager
Chantelle Mashego, Senior Manager at Nissan has been with the company for 11 years and has worked hard to grow through the ranks. She started as a contracted engineer more than a decade ago and has worked in multiple roles across the business, including an international stint at Nissan Spain.
Mashego has an understanding of the complexities of building a vehicle and is responsible for delivering the locally produced Nissan Navara. Since the opening of the Rosslyn Plant, Nissan has ensured a 50/50 gender split in training programmes, allowing up-and-comers to make it to the top regardless of their race or gender.
Denise van Huyssteen – CEO
Denise van Huyssteen has over 20 years’ experience in the automotive industry in leadership roles. She began her career in the automotive manufacturing industry in July 2000 as Manager of Corporate Communications at Delta Motor Corporation.
In March, 2016, she became the first South African woman to be appointed General Manager of Communications for General Motors Africa and Middle East Operations.
During her time at General Motors South Africa she was a member of their Executive Committee and led communications teams in South Africa, Kenya, Egypt, and Dubai.
She has served as the Chairperson of General Motors’ International Women’s Council, as a Trustee of the GM South Africa Foundation and was a Director on the Nelson Mandela Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry Board from 2013 to 2020.
In June 2021, she was appointed CEO of The Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber Board.
Hayley Eagle – Founder
Established in January 2012, Jamsco Automotive Assemblies is a 100% black woman owned business. She was selected to join the Automotive Incubation Programme and partnered with Sodecia, an international 1st Tier supplier and specialists in manufacturing automotive components. An opportunity came about when Sodecia SA identified a chance for Jamsco to supply a pressed component bracket that fits on the dash panel as an engineering change to the Ford T6 Ranger. Hayley says: “I am very proud of the Z-bracket as it's my claim to fame!"
Hayley previously owned her own business in Botswana and has extensive knowledge in the industry, having managed a garage supporting repairs and maintenance as well as having worked for BMW, Mercedes, Delta.
Marcia Noxolo Mayaba – New Department Executive for Dealer and Business Development
Marsha Mayaba has been in the automotive industry since 1997. She started as a trainee at Barloworld Truck Hire and went on to become the first black female operations manager. Since then, she has had numerous firsts and successes:
- In 2011, she became the first female dealer principal in the country for Volkswagen/Audi SA, Imperial Auto, and Lindsay Saker.
- In 2019, she made history again as the first black female franchise executive in the motor industry in South Africa. She took up her position at Barloworld in July that year as chief executive of Barloworld Motor Retail to look after the Ford and Mazda brands within the group.
- In 2020, during her tenure with Barloworld, Mayaba also held the role of Vice President of the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA),
- In 2021, she was voted as one of the Top 100 Most Influential Women in Africa – Automotive Supply Chain.
- In January this year, ISUZU Motors South Africa (IMSAf) appointed her as the new department executive for dealer and business development.
- She won the prestigious Club of Excellence for Volkswagen South Africa and was appointed as the first female franchise executive in South Africa.
She says she has had to work three times harder than her male counterparts to get ahead in the industry. Although she has achieved a lot so far, she aims to lead the way in making the motor industry an industry of choice for women.
Oona Scheepers – Manager of Colour & Trim
Oona Scheepers studied graphic design in Cape Town and is a proudly South African export who heads up a design department at the Volkswagen Group headquarters.
Her talent and flair for design left an indelible mark at Porsche from 1997 to 2004, and Audi from 2004 to 2007 before she headed for Wolfsburg to join Volkswagen AG.
As head of design and trim, she has also been on the panel of judges for Volkswagen’s global car design contest.
Yota Baron – CFO
In august 2021, Yota Baron was appointed as the first female Chief Financial Officer at Ford Motor Company South Africa.
Yota joined in 1990 and over the years she climbed the ranks in the organisation and held various roles including business planning manager for the APA region, operations controller, marketing sales and services controller for the Middle East and Africa (MEA) region, profit manager and CFO of Ford Direct Markets before being appointed to her current role.
Yota’s love of cars started when she was just eight years old. She also knew she wanted to pursue a career in finance from a young age, and after completing high school she became the first woman in her family to graduate from university.
Yuliia Varchuk – Trim, Chassis, and Final Vehicle Operations Facility Manager
Yuliia Varchuk is the first woman in South Africa to become the Trim, Chassis, and Final (TCF) Vehicle Operations Facility Manager at the Ford Motor Company of Southern Africa.
In 2011 she was appointed the first female manager in the manufacturing division of Ford Russia. She says:
“As a woman in a male dominated industry it is easy to fall into the trap of doubting yourself, but persistence, hard work, accepting criticism, and growing from it all will allow you to become an expert in your field.
As you build confidence in your own abilities, others will start to share in that confidence. I, therefore, urge women to be dedicated to technical excellence, constant learning and researching new technologies in your field. Always go that extra mile in the continuous improvement of your work,”
The automotive industry is a great space for those who are looking for a challenge. It is a dynamic space and offers great opportunities to learn and grow. Women who are passionate about automotive can certainly break into the industry, just as these and many other women have. But in a male-dominated business, women face a few more challenges than their male counterparts, and there’s no doubt that they have to work at least twice as hard to be noticed.
We take our hats off to all the women who have faced their challenges head on, holding their own, and never giving up. Women, we celebrate you!
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