As South Africa approaches Women’s Month, there will be billions spent on celebrations.
Most of these celebrations are patronising to women, limiting their scope to historical social justice progress and overlooking the current injustices in the workplace.
While the women’s march of 1956 is important and should always be commemorated, Women’s Month must also elevate the importance of ensuring more women are in key leadership and decision-making positions.
Research firm Catalyst found that Fortune 500 companies with more women at the top produced greater returns.
McKinsey’s “Women Matter”report places the business case for gender transformation at the heart of the bottom-line, showing that $12trillion could be added to the global GDP by 2025 by advancing women’s equality. McKinsey also showed that European companies with a greater gender balance in leadership showed higher returns on stock price and operating profit.
South Africa’s motor retail industry does not have a single female owner at a major car dealership.
Out of all the big players, from Barloworld Motor Retail to McCarthy, there are no black female dealership owners and less than three white ones.
I sat down with Marcia Mayaba, who strives to become South Africa’s first black female dealership owner.
Mayaba has earned her stripes in the motor industry. As a superstar dealer principle who not only understands the operations side of motor retail, her employees love her.
At her Barloworld Motor Retail-owned dealership in Bruma Lake, employee after employee confirmed she was a gem to work for.
When did you know your career would be built around cars?
I didn’t. I grew up fascinated and loving cars because we did not have one at home, but never thought I would have a career centred around cars. It was pure coincidence. The motor industry gave me an opportunity after my mother passed away. Once I was in it, I knew I was going to stay in it for the longest time.
The motor industry is male dominated. Do you see the masculine nature of the industry as an issue or an inspiration?
I see it as both. As a female in the motor industry one has to literally “fight” for one’s seat at the main table. It’s also an inspiration because one pushes oneself and proves that the female potential is there and it is a force to be reckoned with and cannot be ignored.
As a leading dealer principle, your dealership is essentially a culture. What do people not know about the dealership culture? What would they be surprised by if they knew?
The laughter. From the moment I walk in, I greet and interact with my team. Daily, I walk through the entire dealership acknowledging my people. For some reason, when I open my mouth, I say things and I am not even aware of the humour because it is unintended. It feels so good to walk away and hear the remaining sounds of laughter, be it in the workshop, wash bay or the new vehicle sales showroom. Singing is another surprise.
When sitting in my office, I sing along to the music playing on radio and, in the last few months, I have heard the team singing along as well, which is fantastic.
Why are there no major black owner-operated and female owners dealerships in SA?
Like any other industry, access to funding is the No.1 factor. Second, I would question the motor industry’s readiness. There is very little stakeholder dialogue in this space, but I look forward to the future ownership of dealerships.
The motor industry is on the cusp of transforming. What is your vision for diversity in the motor retail industry?
I am passionate about creating an awareness and creating opportunities to attract young black females. When people talk about the motor industry, it is limited to Sales. But there are so many more operational elements in a dealership where women can make a positive contribution and be successful. There is a huge need for female technicians and service and parts managers. In fact, the management level is where the biggest gap is. My focus is to attract, train and develop women to ensure a pipeline of talent in the motor industry. Not limited to employment only, but to include the possibility of ownership should there be an entrepreneurial desire.
If you owned your own dealership, what is one thing you would do differently from the male-owned ones?
The coldness must go. Our people are the most important asset, and they must be looked after. I agree wholeheartedly with Sir Richard Branson’s People Strategy as well as the fun element of Google towards their employees. Once you are employed by Mayaba Motors, you will be part of it forever.
With online sales disrupting all forms of retail, what is the future of car sales? Do you see a future where people buy cars from an app?
App-solutely! We are in a fast-paced, ever-changing environment. Customers are determining and directing how they need to be serviced. So if an app will be the way of conducting business, then an app it is. Change excites me, so disappearing into the system is not an option.
Where does South Africa rank in the global community in terms of service in the retail motor industry?
South Africa plays a pivotal role when it comes to the export market of locally-manufactured vehicles to the global community. The export trend has been on the rise for the last few years. Some manufacturers have identified South Africa’s motor industry as a key investment opportunity for the future.
If you left the motor industry, what would you miss most?
Making a difference. There are very few black women at a senior management level in the motor industry. I use my track record to influence and facilitate change.
Independent Online (www.iol.co.za) published a story on July 3, 2017: “SA Car Industry in R3.5Bn BEE Plan” highlighting the goals of OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers) to drive more black motor retailer dealer ownership. A Venture Capital (transformation) Fund will be established and negotiated with the Department of Trade and Industry.
There’s still at long way to go before transformation codes are in place within the motor industry and black ownership becomes the norm.
However, for Mayaba and other women, at least the just-white and white-male conversations in the motor industry have diminished.
Perhaps it’s time South Africa’s retail motor industry wakes up the potential of leaders like Mayaba and to tap into the trillions McKinsey believes could be added to the economy by 2025.
* Timothy Maurice Webster is the author of four brand leadership books and a columnist who consults and speaks on the science of Human and Brand Behaviour.