In the not-too-distant past, women were refused the right to education let alone to work. That notion has thankfully changed, and more and more women are steadily empowering themselves and becoming leaders in the corporate world. However, in some societies regardless of the era we live in, there are still debates about what women can and cannot do.
“It’s a man’s job,” or “Let a man do it” is a common phrase. Well, not anymore it isn’t! A 2009 study from the University of Maryland revealed that women are three times more likely to follow in their father’s career footsteps these days than they were a century ago. Women in today’s workforce are strong, confident and work in extreme jobs which make a massive impact on the way women are viewed and accepted.
Founder and manager of VN Industrial Armature Winders, Denise Naidoo, is just such a woman. She is truly ‘a lady in a man’s world’, having successfully co-owned and managed an armature winding company for the past 16 years.
According to Naidoo, the company came about in 1996 when her husband lost his job through retrenchment at an armature winding company. His years of experience counted against him in his search for new employment, as the industry was under pressure and people could not afford to pay him his true worth.
Following some sage advice from her late father, Naidoo and her husband decided to open their own company, and VN Industrial Armature Winders was born.
However, running the company was not easy in the beginning, and the couple needed support from their parents to assist them financially.
Over the years the business grew and started to develop a solid reputation, leading to some key clients including South African Breweries (SAB).
However, despite her success as a manager in an industry that is almost exclusively dominated by men, Naidoo says that being a woman in the winding industry still comes with many challenges because of her gender.
“This industry is highly dominated by men, I deal with them in the workshops and many of them can be judgmental or reluctant to give me a chance because I’m a woman”, she says. “However, once they see that I know what I am talking about and am passionate about the industry, they do usually change their attitude.”
Besides refurbishing and rewinding of rotating machines and transformers, along with selling new machines, electrical components, consumables and other items, the company also has a focus on developing and equipping women with administrative and technical skills specific to the machine industry. “I like to think I have ‘broken the mould’ as far as this industry being a male-only one is concerned, and am keen to give other like-minded women a chance,” explains Naidoo.
The company also strives to develop their local community by training, empowering and employing youth from the area of Pineridge Park - where the company is based.
The company has been acknowledged in the past for its work and has received a number of awards and accolades, including the South African Breweries Certificate of Excellence in 2008 for their dedication to their Prospection Plant.
They are also a participant in the Old Mutual Legends programme, which supports small businesses through mentoring and skills training, as well as running several workshops every year to create a healthy and vibrant small business sector in SA.
“Being part of the Legends programme has helped me focus on certain aspects that are important to the growth of my company”, she explains.
Naidoo is optimistic about the future, and strives for her company to be a leading name in the rotating machine industry. “We work extremely hard to be associated with reliability and quality workmanship. I also think that sometimes, success in business is all about a woman’s touch!” she adds with a smile.
- Abram Molelemane (firstname.lastname@example.org) is Media Intern at Fetola.