Women in Wheels | These ladies kept the wheels going at Nissan SA during Covid-19

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Liz Gorbunov
Liz Gorbunov

• Nissan South Africa celebrates several women who gave their all during Covid-19.

• The women head up several sectors within the Japanese automaker' local arm.

• This celebration of women is in light on International Women's Day.

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We are all trying to forget 2020. But for so many women making their way through the Covid-19 pandemic, 2020 was the year of challenge, the year of fighting against gender inequality, and the year of overcoming all the obstacles in their path. In a world where women's achievements are so often underplayed, there is nothing more important than choosing to challenge.

This International Women's Day (IWD) on 8 March, Nissan South Africa (NSA) believes that the IWD's central theme of choosing to challenge gender inequality at all levels has never been more important. By challenging society, industry, and themselves, Nissan believes it can choose to create a more inclusive world, create more awareness of women's issues - and their achievements - and limit the bias women face every day.

The automotive industry is changing, and NSA says its women employees - their 'Women of Steel' - have shown just how integral they are to growing and improving the sector.

Liz Gorbunov,nissan
Liz Gorbunov

Women speaking out

Senior manager, Chantelle Mashego, has spent more than a decade between NSA and Nissan Spain. And with her engineering background, she has ascended the ranks and is now a vital part of delivering the new, SA-built Navara.

Mashego said: "I've worked at so many levels of the business, from being a contracted engineer to my roles in vehicle quality, and now management. I believe that all women need to realise that they have the power to rise to the top, and we need to make room for them there. I'll be honest that Covid-19 and its implications have challenged us, but our South African perseverance and 'can-do spirit' continues to win the day. Every day, I'm encouraged by my team members who show up for work ready to give it their all."

nissan,Chantelle Mashego
Chantelle Mashego

Melicia Bala, NSA's human resources lead, has made it her mission to ensure that the achievements of young women entering the industry are recognised and rewarded.

Bala said: "We have always done our utmost to be the employer of choice for young women, and we want to attract the best talent and allow them to flourish. Through intensive training programs, like our Automotive Industry Development Centre, we want to make sure that they can develop their skills and compete with the very best. Because with enough support, we can help young people - young women - grow, even through a global pandemic."

nissan,Melicia Bala
Melicia Bala

READ: Women in Wheels | How Liz Gorbunov made an impact at Nissan SA and what drives her ambition

Chief marketing manager for light commercial vehicles and Sporty Utility Vehicles at NSA, Liz Gorbunov, has said she believes the only way to change perceptions around women in the industry is to empower young women and provide them with real mentorship.

She said: "When a person rises to the level of executive, you have to realise that this comes with responsibility. We have to work with the young women in our industry to help them see the pitfalls and avoid them. We want them to feel like they can speak up and choose to challenge mistreatment. By making this the norm, we make it even easier for the next generation of young women."

nissan,Liz Gorbunov
Liz Gorbunov

Lizette Crause, NSA general manager of customer quality and dealer network development, has seen how the Covid-19 pandemic has affected her colleagues and NSA's networks.

Crause said: "This was an incredibly difficult year for our business, but what has been inspiring is seeing my colleagues really balance their work lives and their home lives so well. For some of them, particularly the women, this has been a delicate balancing act that I hope we won't have to repeat in 2021."

Nissan South Africa says it encourages its employees to continue challenging the pre-conceived notions about women in the industry, and hopes that it can continue to support them as they #ChooseToChallenge.

nissan,Lizette Crause
Lizette Crause
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