JOHANNESBURG - Once the exclusive domain of men, there is an encouraging new influx of women in the OEM automotive industry who are bringing a fresh, new dynamism and balance to the sector. When it comes to the automotive aftermarket, you only have to look at the increase in the number of women and women-owned or co-owned businesses in the Motor Industry Workshop Association (MIWA) to appreciate the shift in balance too.
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 empathetically 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.”
Bogner loves to be different and loves having her workshop: “It's 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.”
Women are not only excelling on the ownership side in the automotive aftermarket; a number of MIWA member businesses also employee women to engage with customers, handle the administration and human resource functions as well as the ordering of supplies and so on. Many of these businesses start as family-owned businesses so mothers, wives and daughters all get involved.
“It is definitely a transforming industry which makes it attractive to anyone who loves technology and commerce and is interested in knowing how beautiful and powerful vehicles and motorcycles are designed, built, maintained and repaired. It is also an industry in which women can do well,” Bogner adds.
At a time when unemployment is rife, the automotive aftermarket is a sector which is showing encouraging growth and providing some real opportunities. 80 percent of accredited RMI business owners, of which MIWA is an association, are small to medium size business owners and this is where the growth and employment opportunities that are going to drive the economy could come from. The sector is already peppered with countless vibrant examples.
Take the Glamane twins for example. Both Dineo and Keneuwe 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 established in 2017.
Their journey started when they received a bursary to study Auto Electrical services after completing their N6 of electrical engineering. A year later, while completing the auto electrical course, the pair attained 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 future really started. They took the opportunity to complete the apprenticeship and the rest, as they say, 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 comes their way.
Bridget Finn, human resources and finance manager at Finn Auto Repairs and Diagnostics, who works with her husband who established the business 12 years ago says her advice to other women is: “Nothing thing should define or limit you. We are capable of doing anything we put our minds to, despite someone’s opinion, traditions and history. Being a woman is a strength not a weakness, however, do not confuse it with arrogance. Make yourself proud.”
The last word comes from Teresa Spenser-Higgs of D&T Servicing, also the MIWA Border Regional Chairperson. She says she loves the honesty of earning a living with your hands, saying the muscles in this industry are as a result of hard work; they’re not crafted in a gym. “The future of the industry is exciting and it is so encouraging to see young women choosing related fields of study at colleges. There are many opportunities for women - just believe in yourself and don’t let someone else determine your value,” she concludes.
If you would like to learn more about starting a workshop in South Africa or to learn more about what it takes to attain a technical qualification in the automotive sector, contact MIWA.