While good strides have been made to advance gender equality in South Africa, there is still a lot that needs to be done in order for the country’s business landscape to include and empower more women. 

The hiring of women needs to be a business imperative and their ongoing professional training and advancement must be prioritised. This is particularly true in the motoring industry, which is still a predominantly male-dominated sector. 

It’s exciting to take note of the corporates that are committed to meaningful, long-term transformation in their businesses – those that are upskilling female staff members, and nurturing and retaining top talent. 

“An organisation cannot expect to see growth if it does not invest in skills development and the grooming and shaping of employees into leaders,” says Ujaala Deonarain, Senior Human Capital Officer at NMI-DSM, one of South Africa’s leading motor retailers.

NMI-DSM is one of South Africa’s leading motor retailers.

NMI-DSM is one of South Africa’s leading motor retailers.

In 2018,NMI-DSM conducted a training gap analysis among its employees and learnt that training was desperately needed among its accountants and supervisors. A learnership to address this gap was immediately introduced. 

“A learnership is the only way to facilitate the link between structured learning and workplace practice,” explains Deonarain, “so much the better if it is a qualification that is registered with the National Qualifications Framework (NQF).” The learnership NMI-DSM selected, which was offered across multiple businesses, was divided equally between the women and men in the various teams.

Learning for leadership 

“I signed up for the training to gain credentials behind my name so that I could advance my career,” says Chantél Brown, an assistant accountant at Garden City Commercials Mbombela, which forms part of the NMI-DSM family. Since September 2018, Chantél has completed seven skills programmes, including programmes on leadership, as well as financial, change and people management. 

The courses, she says, have positively influenced her work life in a number of ways: “I’ve learnt how to handle conflict better and how to show emotional intelligence in difficult situations. The training also helped me to manage and assist my fellow team members.”

Customer liaison officer at NMI Umhlanga Revashni Venkatsamy agrees: “The training improved my life at work drastically. I now think more like a leader and use the skills I have learnt with my team members. I have also become more involved at a management level.”

The training Chantél and her colleagues received was facilitated through Media Works, South Africa’s leading adult education and training provider. Media Works introduced Effective Leader to the NMI-DSM teams. Effective Leader is a fully accreted National Certificate in General Management qualification that is ranked at NQF Level 5 and helps to improve participants’ managerial skills and knowledge. It is ideally suited for women who historically have not had access to the same resources or opportunities as their male counterparts. It offers a necessary balancing of the scales. 

Accountant Nelile Dlamini, also at Garden City Commercials Mbombela, was nervous of completing the learnership initially. “When I started the learnership I sent an email asking if I could quit because I thought I wouldn’t make it,” she says. “But I was encouraged to continue and, today, I’m so grateful. I learnt that anything is possible through hard work and dedication. You need to have early mornings and late nights but, in the end, it pays off.” Nelile is hoping that the course will help her achieve her ambition of becoming a general manager one day.

By furthering their leadership capabilities, these women and the many others who have completed Effective Leader are contributing proactively to the development of their companies, industries and society at large. By making this training possible, their companies are driving this change.

We spoke to the female employees at NMI-DSI who took part in the Effective Leader training. Here’s what they had to say about their experiences.

Verishka Rampersad

Verishka Rampersad

Verishka started working at Mercedes-Benz Commercial Vehicles Durban in September 2007, where she is currently an accountant. Originally from Phoenix in Durban, Verishka dreams of one day being a chartered accountant at PricewaterhouseCoopers.

  • What made you sign up for the training?

I felt that the course would assist me in my work and would empower me to be a better version of myself.

  • How has the training improved your life at work?

Some of the courses have helped me to manage my time better, while others have taught me how to delegate and how to empower my team members. This knowledge has helped me to manage my work and enjoy what I do.

  • What tips do you have on how to stay motivated to complete a training programme?

Never give up, keep pushing yourself to higher limits, and make use of both the study guides and the online facilitators. I looked for inspiration in my workplace and always asked my team members for their input. This helped me to understand them in new ways and taught me how to be sympathetic towards them. 

  • How did the facilitator help you with your training?

She was always available to assist us with our needs, even after hours. She guided us through the process and made it easier for us to achieve our goals.

  • What are your goals once you have completed all the training?

I feel like I have already achieved some of my goals: I have become stronger as a person, I understand my team members better, I am able to handle difficult situations without panicking, and I am able to manage my time.

Taaeba Sayed

Taaeba Sayed

Taaeba Sayed.

Taaeba Sayed works as an accountant and, at times, as an assistant accountant, a bookkeeper and a cashier at the NMI Group. She also provides ad hoc IT support. Taaeba has completed Media Works’ NQF Level 5 management programme, which she began in August 2018.

  • How has the training improved your life at work?

Even though there is so much on my plate, life at work has become more manageable. The training has given me the confidence to face work head-on and tackle everything that comes my way. It has also helped me to manage my time more efficiently, work in a more organised and structured way, stay focused and have a more positive outlook.

  • What tips do you have on how to stay motivated to complete a training programme?

Excelling in the first module increased my self-confidence. When you’re a working mum and wife, trying to balance work, family and studying can be quite difficult. At times you want to give up, but you need to remind yourself that the training is part of your self-improvement journey and you owe that much to yourself.

  • How did the facilitator help with your training?

Our facilitator assured us that we would cope because she was there to guide and assist us – and that’s exactly what she did. At each session, she would explain the topic and relate it to our work environments so that we would understand it better. 

  • What are your goals once you have completed all the training?

To apply what I have learnt and to pass this knowledge on to my colleagues. I would like to move into a management position and hope that the training will help me to achieve this.

  • If you had all the relevant qualifications, what would your dream job be?

I would like to be the CEO of a company, perhaps my own. I also think that I would enjoy being the dealer principal of a motor dealership, as I believe I would enjoy the pressure and challenges that come with running a dealership. It’s also a predominantly male-dominated area that could do with the presence of more women.

Landie van der Bergh

Landie van der Bergh

Landie van der Bergh.

Landie started her working life as a paralegal in family law, civil litigation and administration. Today, however, she is a customer relations officer at Mercedes-Benz Durban, where she has worked since 2012.

  • How has the training improved your life at home?

I started the course a little later than the other students. This placed added pressure on me as I had to catch up on the modules I had missed while keeping up with those that were being handed out. I am now more confident in my abilities and more certain that I can do whatever I set my mind to. 

  • How has the training improved your life at work?

The learnership provided me with a solid foundation on many issues in the management and leadership space. Being able to learn while gaining practical experience was also hugely valuable. I was able to learn from departments in the company that I had never worked in before.

  • What tips do you have on how to stay motivated to complete a training programme?

Don’t give up. The only person who fails is the person who gives up. You don’t need to know everything at once, take it step by step. And remember that practice makes perfect.

  • How did the facilitator help you with your training?

Our facilitator was an inspiration. Her knowledge and skills were beneficial and helped to motivate us. She made us feel that, if she can do it, so can we. 

  • What are your goals once you have completed all the training?

While I have learnt a lot and gained a lot of experience through this training, I recognise that I still need to improve my technical knowledge. Going forward, I would like to get more involved in this aspect of the business so that I can turn this weakness into a strength.

Revashni Venkatsamy

Revashni Venkatsamy

Revashni is a customer liaison officer at NMI Umhlanga, where she works as an intermediary between the dealership and its clients, ensuring that the clients have all the information and support they need. Revashni joined NMI Umhlanga in June 2015 and started her training in June 2018. To date, she has completed her NQF Level 5 in General Management. 

  • What made you sign up for the training?

My career is very important to me and I want to reach management level. I took on the challenge to broaden my knowledge, to contribute to my self-development and to further my career.

  • How has the training improved your life at home?

The training made me more aware of my responses and actions to my family and friends. I now feel empowered with life skills and have learnt to identify which of my characteristics are weakness and which are strengths.

  • What tips do you have on how to stay motivated to complete a training programme?

Self-discipline is very important, as is perseverance. I think keeping my eye on the end of the course kept me motivated. Now I feel proud that I put all that hard work in and that I have an NQF management qualification.

  • How did the facilitator help you with your training?

Our facilitator was really supportive and guided us through the whole programme. She was always available to us when we needed her.

Sandra Faruk

Sandra is an accountant at Garden City Motors Shelly Beach, where she has worked since November 2004. Sandra has worked in the motoring industry since 1994, and recently completed her NQF Level 4.

  • What made you sign up for the training?

I saw it as a good opportunity for growth and for my career development with the company.

  • How has the training improved your life at home?

It helped me become more self-aware. I learnt more about who I am, including my values and beliefs. 

  • How has the training improved your life at work?

The course made me much more patient and understanding in different situations. It gave me a sense of direction and made me clearer on what I want to achieve.

  • What tips do you have on how to stay motivated to complete a training programme?

During the training, I learnt not to feel overwhelmed with all the work that needs to be done. I learnt to relax, to read the question first, think about what was required, analyse and then provide my answer. 

  • What are your goals once you have completed all the training?

My goal is to put what I have learnt into practice.

Chantél Brown

Chantél Brown

Chantél Brown

Chantél is an assistant accountant at Garden City Commercials Mbombela, where she is responsible for processing warranty payments and keeping the company’s floor plan on track. She matriculated in 2006 and joined Garden City Commercials in January 2007. Her training began in September 2018.

  • What training programmes have you done so far?

I have completed skills programmes one to seven, which include the programmes on leadership, best practice management, financial management, relationship management, results-based management, change management and people management.

  • What tips do you have on how to stay motivated to complete a training programme?

Take an hour everyday to study, and two to three hours a day on weekends. This will ensure that you don’t fall behind with your reading and assignments.

  • What are your goals once you have completed your training?

Once I have completed the training, I would like to be more involved in situations where I can practice what I have learnt. I would also like to take my studies one step further and get a diploma in financial accounting.

Nelile Dlamini

Nelile Dlamini

Nelile Dlamini.

Nelile is an accountant at Garden City Commercials Mbombela. Originally from Barberton, she completed her BCom at the University of Venda before starting her career at Barberton Mines. She joined Garden City Commercials in January 2018.

  • What made you sign up for the training?

I wanted to have a better understanding of what it takes to hold a managerial position, and to learn how to think out of the box.

  • How has the training improved your life at work?

Through this training I have learnt how to organise and prioritise, how to avoid distractions and manage interruptions. I also feel comfortable asking questions now and have learnt to acknowledge others.

  • What are your goals once you have completed the training?

I want to apply the things that I have learnt in my work. I want to invest this knowledge back into my company and work closer with my managers to that I can learn more from them.

  • What is your dream job? 

My dream job is to be a general manager one day.