It’s Woman’s Month and in this article, managing editor Patrick O’Leary , on behalf of FleetWatch – takes great delight in paying tribute to all the wonderful woman in our wonderful industry.
Let’s go back to the ‘˜70s when I was editor of a magazine called Commercial Transport. Many of you might recall it. It was a monthly trucking journal published by Thomson Publications. Anyway, in those days, if we got wind of some woman being promoted into a high position in some company, we’d rush out to get the story. A woman reaching the top rung of the corporate ladder in those days was front page news man , I mean, woman. How times have changed.
I scratched around in my computer to find a piece I had saved years back so as to highlight the difference between the 1970s and the 2000s. I found it. It was a story from 2004 and detailed the findings from the annual Grant Thornton International Business Owners Survey which revealed that 75% of businesses in South Africa employed women in senior management positions, in contrast to the then global average of 59%. This gave South Africa the third-highest proportion of companies employing women as senior managers. And that was back in 2004.
The survey also revealed that 26% of total senior management posts in South Africa were filled by women. This beat the global average by 7% and placed South Africa eighth in the world. I’m not too sure what this would look like now , six years down the track – but it must have moved up. We know for sure that the number of women in President Zuma’s life has certainly increased since then.
SA is no slouch
Although outdated, I highlight these figures to show that South Africa is no slouch compared to the rest of the world when it comes to gender equality. We’re up there and that says a lot for our open society which, under our new Constitution, allows for and encourages equal opportunities for all, irrespective of race or gender. And the women of South Africa have grabbed those opportunities, which says a lot for their oomph.
Confirming this is Madelene Seymore, human capital executive at MiX Telematics, who has worked for the company for the past ten years. “There are definitely job opportunities that are available for both men and women and those with the best skills, experience and education get the jobs, regardless of their gender,’ she says.
Commenting on the fleet management and vehicle tracking industry, she agrees that it is still male dominated but she has seen a definite increase in female employees in the overall industry over the time she has been involved , and definitely in the company she works for.
“MiX Telematics is an equal opportunity business so women who have taken advantage of opportunities are thriving,’ she says. She also points out that the company currently has three females at both executive and senior management level and there is a 50/50 male/female split at mid-management level.
Although there is definite movement up the ranks, the point is that over the 35 years of being involved with this industry, I have met so many wonderful female contributors at all levels , some now retired (Irene Caramanis being one example) and so many still active. And each and every one of them has enriched my life in some or other way.
Yes, it’s true that when starting out in this industry back in 1975 there weren’t many women in managerial positions , except in the truck rental industry where women just seemed to do the job so much better than men. I think of the Cooper sisters from Barmot Truck Hire as an example.
Now, however, women have advanced so much that I don’t even think in terms of men or women. If the person I need to interview is a women, that’s it. She’s there because she’s a contributor. Similarly with men. It’s really not an issue. It used to be but it’s not any more. It’s changed.
I just love women
Look, I don’t know if this is ‘˜politically correct’ but I’m going to be honest here and state that what hasn’t changed over all the years is that I still just love women. And I do still notice and appreciate their legs as much as I do their brains. And that ain’t gonna change.
I mean there’s nothing wrong with admiring the chairman’s breasts. After all it was a woman, Clarie Sargent, a senatorial candidate in Arizona, USA, who said: “I think it’s about time we voted for senators with breasts. After all, we’ve been voting for boobs long enough.’
Mmmm!! I think I’ve shot myself in the foot with that quote. There’s a dig at us poor men in there somewhere. Will some woman please explain it to me?
What I also love about women is, whether they like to admit it or not, they do have a gentle touch. They can be doing the most awesome and dangerous jobs but deep inside, there is a gentleness that men just can’t duplicate.
I think here of Clare Vale, the lady in the racing gear on our front cover. During the week you will find Clare working alongside her husband and son, Don and Dirk, buying, selling, driving and talking the hard grind business of used trucks at their Boksburg based business called The Truck Man.
Then, over the weekends, instead of planting flowers, you will find her behind the wheel of a 600hp Ford Mustang racing at horrendous speeds in the WesBank V8 Supercar Championship Series as official driver for the Gatorback RAM Racing team. Clare is the first female driver to race in the WesBank V8 Supercar series in its 26 year history – and she’s doing well.
Put a used truck saleswoman and a crazy racing driver in one package and you’d expect to find a ranting lunatic who punches walls for fun. Not so. While being totally proficient and professional in both her work and her racing, Clare is a gentle, kind person. She is a giver who is soft spoken and always has time to listen. She’s all woman.
The Angel of Van Reenen
And then I think of Ansie Jooste, who I refer to as the Angel of Van Reenen. She too features on our cover and the pose is not her riding a skateboard. Rather that was when she was standing in winds which were strong enough to blow trucks over on Van Reenens Pass. And blow them over it did, with the first one going over at 11.00pm one night , and she was there, alone, to help the terrified drivers while preventing any secondary accidents occurring.
Ansie spends every night at the Community Medical Services help centre at the top of Van Reenens Pass. She does so because she just can’t bear the thought of anyone being in an accident and crying out for help only to have no-one arrive. She literally cannot bear the thought and that is why she does what she does. She even went so far as to qualify as a Paramedic so that she could help even more. And she had been out to help stranded and accident-stricken truckers and motorists in the most horrendous weather conditions.
The work is dangerous and requires enormous courage and guts. It’s work many men would shy away from. Yet she, like Clare, has a gentleness about her that is simply exceptional. She’s tough at her job but off the road, Ansie has a heart of gold with a gentle streak running right through it. She’s all woman.
You will also have noticed the pink Isuzu on our cover. In 2009, FleetWatch got a call from an organisation called Cause Marketing Fundraisers who were launching a campaign called PinkDrive designed to take the message of breast cancer to the women of South Africa , especially in the rural areas. They needed backup services for their trucks.
I called Craig Uren, chief operating office of Isuzu Trucks SA and without hesitation, he agreed to put in place a servicing sponsorship for the Isuzu truck being used in the campaign. Hanlie du Preez took over the project and on the day of the launch, she was there in full support. So too was Mandy Lovell of Bridgestone who I approached for sponsorship of the tyres for the project. She too immediately agreed.
Both these women are employed by their respective companies in advertising and promotional activities so you might well think their involvement was more in line with a marketing opportunity rather than for humanitarian input. You’d be wrong.
If you had seen these two ladies on the day of the launch, the vibe you would have picked up from them was all about heart and caring. It was about the gentle side of their nature. They are all women.
These are just a few examples of the wonderful women we have working in this industry. It is impossible to highlight and do justice to all of you , and here I include the wonderful women in my own company , but just know that each and every one of you is special. You’re part of our industry and we love you being here.
Be as vigorous as you can in your jobs. Aim for the top but please, please don’t ever lose that gentle side to you that makes you all woman. We’ve got enough male ‘˜dicks’ occupying positions in politics and in business. Don’t you also become one.
That said, it is your month and FleetWatch pays tribute to each and every one of you. You’re all woman!