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A year ago Marcia Mayaba, franchise executive at Barloworld Motor Retail, was elected as vice-chair of the National Automobile Dealers’ Association (Nada).
Her involvement in the motor industry spans about 24 years and includes truck rental, car rental, leasing and fleet management, and, more recently, retail experience. In July 2019 she was appointed franchise executive at Ford and Mazda.
You became involved in the motor industry quite by chance, but have stuck around for about 24 years. What’s the appeal? Do you consider yourself a petrol head?
Indeed. The motor industry chose me. What really appeals to me is the complex nature of it. It’s certainly more than just the cars that we see on the road. There are many different facets all intertwined in one way or another. The abundance of learning opportunities that have presented themselves to me as my career progressed has been incredible. Our industry contributes approximately 6% to SA’s GDP and it’s on this footing that I felt it important to be part of the change narrative when it comes to transformation, diversity and inclusion. The motor industry is dynamic and plays a pivotal role in our country’s economy and it certainly will always be relevant as an industry of the future.
Am I a petrol head? Without a doubt. I love cars. I’m also a motor bike rider. I love all cars right from entry level — my first company car was a purple Opel Corsa Lite. I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing many vehicles in the various market segments, including the light and heavy commercial segments, with my current company car being a Ford Mustang 5.0 GT. What a thrill.
What are your duties at Nada, and does it take up a lot of your time?
I am currently the vice-chair of Nada and I also chair the transformation committee. Working with Nada and the Executive Committee members is a pleasure. The level of support and understanding when it comes to having to manage my employment obligations, together with that of Nada, has been considerable.
We have dedicated ourselves to supporting the transformation agenda and work together with our members towards changing the current status quo while engaging with various stakeholders of the industry which is crucial.
What have been the most challenging and most rewarding parts of your journey in the motor industry?
The most challenging has been being a black female operating in the motor industry. At every level of my career, starting from being a dealer principal back in 2011 right up to executive level, I have often been the only female in the room. To have a voice in that environment can be very intimidating and sometimes uncomfortable. This challenge continues for me to date.
The most rewarding part of this journey has been my ability to turn nonperforming dealerships into profitable ones, to take performing dealerships from good to great, and creating opportunities for the people I have had the blessing to lead.
There is not a single dealership where I have led and not sent people for training, where I have not promoted someone, where I have not mentored and coached people. Unfortunately, in a lot of instances, it does not happen.
I have positioned myself as a brand ambassador to attract talent and to support people in this industry. My LinkedIn mailbox, from women in particular, is constantly inundated with requests for guidance and support.
The most rewarding part has been the acknowledgment of my efforts by various OEMs. The one standout award for me, in my entire career in this industry, is the Volkswagen Club of Excellence Award.
Have you found it tough working in a white, male-dominated sector, and have you seen attitudes changing?
Yes, it’s been tough working and leading in a white male-dominated sector, in particular being the leader to whom they report. However, we are a country that is evolving. Organisations are driving diversity and inclusion, attitudes are changing, albeit at a snail’s pace.
The male base overall is growing, transforming faster relative to females. Unfortunately, women often find themselves having to navigate relationships to a broader male presence, and it’s not limited to one race.
Is the motor industry a good place for young women to pursue a career, and what advice would you give them to get started?
The motor industry is an excellent place for young women to pursue a career. For Nada, this is a key focus area, where we can certainly contribute towards changing the face of the industry. Our work in the last year has been to increase our visibility. Our chair, Mark Dommisse, has led us from the front in this regard and, by doing so, has created an awareness of the possibilities and opportunities the motor industry presents.
Advice I would give to young women getting started: be open to learning; identify your personal goals and objectives in terms of your career; engage with your manager and share your aspirations. Always be cognisant of the fact that you have earned your position; work hard; do not be apologetic about your presence and sit at the table with confidence.
To the females in the [broader] industry, particularly those in leadership roles, let’s create space for other females to grow and join us. Someone cautioned me not to appear as a “bra-burning feminist” and my response was, “it would appear that way because there are not enough of us who are vocal about the importance of transformation, diversity and inclusion. Until we start seeing the change, I shall not stop engaging and challenging the current status quo.”
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Published by Arena Holdings and distributed with the Financial Mail on the last Thursday of every month except December and January.