Barloworld Motor Trading Executive Marcia Mayaba says company executives in the motor industry need to take decisive steps to ensure that women are represented at all levels.

She says paying lip service to the transformation agenda in the motor industry will not help in achieving it.

“The transformation discussion and agenda should be driven from the top. The CEO sets the tone of the culture of the business. In order for transformation and gender parity to take place, it has to come at the senior level. And you cannot pay lip service, integrity is important. You have to walk the talk, you have to make the appointments, and you have to create visibility, you have to have the dialogues.”

Recognition of women in the industry

Mayaba has been in the industry since 1997. She started as a trainee at Barloworld Truck Hire and went on to become the first black female operations manager at the same company. She says she has had to work three times harder than her male counterparts to get ahead in the industry.

“Back in 1997, it was three years after democracy, so the customer profile, the workforce profile was very much white and male-dominated. If there were women in the organisation, you know, there were no women leaders. So you literally had to navigate yourself into this new environment. So, the challenges for me really firstly were not being taken seriously and not being acknowledged in terms of the role performed. “

Twenty-three years later and she still faces the same obstacles. “I mean that hasn’t changed even today, in every level I’ve occupied; I still fight for things I fought for in 1997. The difference now is that you know, I have these crucial conversations, I have this robust debates and I have to create awareness. I mean at some point something has to give.”

Contribution to the inclusion of women

In July, Mayaba was appointed the Vice President of the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA). The organisation represents the interests of dealership owners.

Through this position, she aims to contribute to the inclusion of women in the industry. “In terms of my contribution as Vice-chair, it is to work very closely with the chairperson but my primary function and focus is on transformation, diversity, and inclusion and secondly, also just to pretty much to position the NADA to be quite futuristic and business ready for the new millennials and the fourth industrialisation revolution. “

Against all odds

From humble beginnings in Soweto, Orlando East, Mayaba went on to break barriers in the motor industry, occupying positions that some with the same make never dared to even dream of. It was after her mother succumbed to breast cancer that she had to drop out of varsity and start working.

She became the first female dealer principal in 2011, which is a general manager in a dealership, responsible for the output of the business, the workers, and customers.

Her other achievements include winning the prestigious Club of Excellence for Volkswagen South Africa and being appointed as the first female franchise executive in South Africa. The greatest gift that her mother gave her, according to Mayaba, was laying a good educational foundation.

An industry of choice for women

Although she has achieved a lot so far, she aims to lead the way in making the motor industry, an industry of choice for women.

“I think our responsibility as stakeholders in the motor industry is one where we need to reposition the perception of the motor industry. We need to reposition it in such a way that women can regard it as an industry of choice. I am on LinkedIn and all you see really are women that go into finance, medicine, science, etc. It is hardly ever that you will see any post related to the motor industry. Part of my responsibility at NADA is to influence and shape the repositioning of the industry.”

She urges women to open their horizons. “The motor industry is not about just buying a car or selling a car. There are so many elements to this thing, there are original equipment manufacturers, and some people don’t know that there are manufacturers who produce vehicles in this country. The Ford Ranger is produced in this country; the Polo is manufactured in South Africa, that is one element. Then there is the component side of the business, and then there is the government and the Department of Transport, there are too many elements in the motor industry that it cannot be ignored.”

Below is a full interview with Marcia Mayaba: 

Up close and personal

Q: What do you do for fun?
A: I love entertaining and it is unfortunate because of the pandemic and lockdown we have to do the responsible thing and that has been a stumbling block for me. But either than that there was a time that I was riding motorbikes, I still do but my dream is to have a Harley Davidson.

Q: Which is your favourite car, currently and why?
A: It has to be the Ford Mustang; I am driving it now as my current company car. It is powerful, it is a V8, 338 kilowatts and it has just got attitude.

Q: If you are into books, what is your current read?
A: I am a very bad reader, so I have started listening to audiobooks but the book that I read and really made an impact was Good to Great by Jim Collins.

Q: Music, whom do you listen to?
A: I am old school and I am an old soul. I cannot relate to some of the music today. Teddy Pendergrass, Luther Vandross, Dolly Parton, Gerald Levert, I am a soul music type of person. So, Sundays are my very best.