SKF South Africa, part of the global bearing and rotating technology specialist SKF Group, pledges its continued commitment to the development of women’s socio-economic empowerment through education and encouraging female appointments in leadership, influential and engineering positions.

South Africa has come a long way in terms of gender equality and women empowerment since the historical march by over 20,000 women to the Union Buildings on 9 August 1956 to protest against the country’s unfair pass laws. There are many examples of great women in leadership positions in the country and the appointment of a Minister of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities in the Presidency bears testament to the fact that these are key focus areas for government.

However, while women make up just over half of the population, they are still under-represented in positions of authority and power with gender representation below 50%. Women dominate the domestic worker and clerk or technician occupations as well as the informal sector, but only 32% hold managerial positions in South Africa.

Statistics further show that black women engineers are also still disproportionately under-represented in the workforce despite ongoing policies and programmes to address the imbalances of the past. Engineering is a primary landscape in which SKF operates so this shortfall raises definite concern. Consequently the South African subsidiary signed a black economic empowerment (B-BBEE) ownership agreement with black women owned Golelo Trust four years ago. SKF South Africa’s Head of Human Resources & B-BBEE, Corlé Grobler, explains that the objective of establishing the Trust was to advance the education and economic development of Black women in South Africa by providing financial assistance for tertiary education in the field of engineering and specifically in mechanical engineering. She affirms that since inception in 2017, the first fifteen engineering bursaries for black women have been granted, adding that all of the bursars have completed their studies successfully thus far.   

“We continue to maintain the dialogue of enhancing women in leadership and influential roles as this is fundamental to the growth of business and industry and subsequently the country’s economy,” continues Corlé. “We therefore consider it every company’s responsibility to develop and nurture leaders and specifically women leaders within and beyond their organisation.” To this end we have managers serving as trustees and as directors on the boards of our Socio-Economic Development Projects. This provides additional opportunity to hone leadership skills and contribute to the community at the same time.”

SKF South Africa is proud of the fact that currently 40% of its Senior Management Team is female. “But ultimately our goal is true gender equality by achieving a 50/50 representation throughout the company,” states Corlé. “In a bid to showcase some of our successful women who occupy managerial positions at SKF, we asked them to share their thoughts on what constitutes good leadership qualities and how does an organisation benefit from diversity and inclusion?”   

Commenting on what constitutes good leadership, Amelia Cloete, SKF Warehouse Manager, says “I strongly believe that you must be able to do the work yourself in which you lead, or have the understanding as to the work function. Respect is earned. Always be willing to share your knowledge and ensure that the people you lead understand their value in the organisation and their part in the end goal – customer satisfaction. SKF Training Solutions Manager, Gail Taylor, says, “A good leader is one who allows their team to make mistakes without fear, is humble, empathetic, and has a clear vision which is openly shared with and understood by the team.”

Michelle du Plessis, HR Business Partner, and SKF Customer Service Manager, Uveeka Ramkylas, share their thoughts on diversity and inclusion and agree that it is highly beneficial to an organisation. “By expanding the pool of talent to include people of all demographics we allow ourselves the opportunity to see problems and opportunities from different perspectives. This can only increase our competitiveness in a global market,” says Michelle. Uveeka adds, “Encouraging diversity in the workplace improves productivity. Productivity is in the effectiveness and efficiency of the employees and employer in an organisation.”

Gail gives some advice on how to engage a team and get the best out of individuals. “See them, hear them, teach them. Get to know your team – they are more than what we see at work. Ensure your team really understands how the work they do contribute to the success of the company.” SKF Customer Service Team Leader, Engineering Services, Elizabeth Pretorius adds, By knowing my team’s weaknesses and strengths I can assign tasks to them that suit them and will challenge them.”

When asked what it is like to work at SKF, Quality & EHS (Environment, Health and Safety) Manager, Firi Ismail says, “I have the privilege of networking on a global level, learning from other people and even teaching other people. I am very proud to be a part of SKF, a global group which holds Quality and EHS in such high regard because they actually see the value in it.”

Head of Customer Services and Logistics, Neritha Pillay, describes working at SKF as both exciting and demanding. “I like that we get the opportunity to network with different people from all over the world, we all work towards a common goal and this is all about creating exceptional customer experience. The supportive and dedicated colleagues continuously share the best practices and their knowledge; these types of collaborations and the empowerment culture make working at SKF great!”

In closing, Corlé shares, “I echo Geraldine Ferraro who said, ‘Some leaders are born women’; our objective is to remind women that they are leaders”.