Female leaders forge ahead in a male dominated industry

Mining, construction, manufacturing and health and safety were once male dominated sectors. But the women heading the SafetySA business units serving these sectors have upended the stereotypes, proving that South Africa’s women need nothing more than a level playing field to forge ahead in any industry sector.

With all three SafetySA business units headed by women, the company is growing strongly across South Africa, Africa and Middle East. The company, part of the international Carlyle Group, delivers key safety, assurance and risk management services to sectors ranging from mining, oil & gas and logistics, through to public sector, construction, hospitality and retail.

Palesa Gaasenwe
Palesa Gaasenwe is SafetySA Group CIO and managing director of the SafetySA MetrixCloud business unit

Empowering culture

Palesa Gaasenwe, SafetySA Group CIO and managing director of the SafetySA MetrixCloud business unit, says the company stands out as a fully equal opportunity employer. At the relatively young age, Gaasenwe has been entrusted with the task of growing the health and safety solutions business, as well as serving as an EXCO member and group CIO. She has also been earmarked as a possible successor to the Group CEO Karl Campbell.

“While many companies just talk about equal opportunity and empowering women, SafetySA has actually made it part of the company culture,” she says. “It’s very clear from the moment you start working in the company that you will have equal opportunities. The culture is not patronising, our group CEO is very supportive, and there is good visibility of women across all levels of decision-making.”

Gaasenwe concedes that some of the sectors SafetySA serves were once male dominated. For example, sectors such as mining, construction and manufacturing may initially have had reservations about a young woman being sent in to train their mainly male staff, for example. However, SafetySA aims for an equal sector and assure our customers all our staff are highly qualified.

Chantal Gray
Chantal Gray is managing director at SafetySA’s NOSA safety training business unit

Enabling women

SafetySA not only fosters an equal opportunity environment – the group also makes every effort to support parents.

Gaasenwe, herself a new mother, highlights the updates of their policies to ensure it caters for support in attaining a work-life balance such as enabled work from home. “In addition, all staff have been enabled to work remotely for the past year or two, which allows some flexibility for parents,” she says.

Chantal Gray, managing director at SafetySA’s NOSA safety training business unit, says: “Nothing stops women from rising through the ranks at SafetySA. In fact, we provide extra support and structure work conditions to help us retain our key resources.”

Opportunities to grow

Gray entered the SafetySA Group through the phased acquisition of her logistics training company from 2012. “Initially, I had to think long and hard about moving from being a business owner to becoming an employee,” she says. “But the group has been amazing. Last year, I was asked to move out of the logistics training niche and take the reins of the entire training business unit, which gave me an opportunity to grow from managing the multi-million rand business I built myself, to heading up the larger R100 million business. I now have the freedom to focus on strategic business growth and making positive change, with the full backing of the group.”

Gray believes the group’s culture makes it stand out in an industry that has been a male dominated one. “Health and safety could be seen as a male dominated industry, but SafetySA group has certainly “bucked the trend” – as a result, women have risen to the top in HR and Operations across all the SafetySA businesses, and are well represented at middle management level too,” Gray says.

Venisha Bachulal
Venisha Bachulal is managing director at SafetySA’s AssureCloud business

Fostering a new wave of women in science

Venisha Bachulal, managing director at SafetySA’s AssureCloud (previously, NOSA Testing and Aspirata) business, believes South Africa’s young women are entering laboratories in fast growing numbers. She sees evidence of this in AssureCloud’s own testing laboratories, where five of the seven lab managers are women and the bulk of the students and interns are women. “We offer internships for microbiology students and environmental health students; and we now see more females than males entering these fields now,” she says. She welcomes this development, and expects to see growing numbers of young women in STEM fields in future.

Bachulal, who started her career as an environmental health practitioner in the local and US public sector, joined the SafetySA group in 2004 as a food safety auditor. She rose quickly through the ranks, becoming an associate, technical director and operational director, and was appointed Managing Director of the business in 2017. In this role, she has spearheaded the business’s growth and two acquisitions to become the largest environmental health practitioners in the private sector in the country. The business grew from a staff complement of 100 to 200 in a year, and now turns over more than R250 million.

Bachulal says it is not necessary to give women special treatment to help them rise to the top: a level playing field is all women need. “In my team it’s very simple for women to rise through the ranks – if you show initiative, and get the job done, you will progress,” she says.

Safe havens

In addition to its commitment to equal opportunities for everyone in its operations, SafetySA also makes a special effort to address gender-based challenges in SA: due to the fact that NOSA has numerous facilities around the country, the business has implemented the SafetySA Group’s safe haven initiative for victims of gender based violence. This initiative, launched last year, offers a safe haven to any woman who feels threatened or at risk. The office coordinators at the NOSA training facilities have been trained to offer sympathetic assistance to any woman in danger, and will refer them to the relevant counsellors or support.



Latest


26 Feb 2021
Five predictions driving transformation in food manufacturing in 2021 and beyond

BY: Phil Lewis Infor VP Solution Consulting for the EMEA Unforeseen disruptions experienced in 2020 prompted F&B producers to future…

Five predictions driving transformation in food manufacturing in 2021 and beyond

BY: Phil Lewis Infor VP Solution Consulting for the EMEA Unforeseen disruptions experienced in 2020 prompted F&B producers to future proof their businesses. Focusing on expediting time-to-market; food quality and safety; supply chain resilience and the creation of omni-channel models will place companies in the strongest position to embrace and…

25 Feb 2021
Embrace wellbeing through nature

Diana Food has 30 years of experience in providing colours and a range of natural flavours to the confectionery and…

Embrace wellbeing through nature

Diana Food has 30 years of experience in providing colours and a range of natural flavours to the confectionery and beverage industry. We look at what defines a ‘natural’ product in an age where consumers look towards health and traceability in foodstuffs. With an extensive raw material base, the company’s…

24 Feb 2021
Knorr joins Mr Potato Head to encourage the world to Eat for Good

Knorr, Unilever’s largest food brand, has teamed up with Mr Potato Head, the world’s most famous vegetable icon, to call…

Knorr joins Mr Potato Head to encourage the world to Eat for Good

Knorr, Unilever’s largest food brand, has teamed up with Mr Potato Head, the world’s most famous vegetable icon, to call on people to change the world by changing what’s on their plates. The unlikely duo joins Netflix’s Restaurants on the Edge chef Dennis Prescott and the 900+ chefs in the…

24 Feb 2021
Pushing boundaries in sophisticated adult drinks

Alcohol-free spirits? This may sound like a contradiction in terms, but it’s an exotic new category pushing the boundaries of…

Pushing boundaries in sophisticated adult drinks

Alcohol-free spirits? This may sound like a contradiction in terms, but it’s an exotic new category pushing the boundaries of new product development. This revolution is shaping the future of tomorrow’s drinking culture. We track evolving consumer demand as these products continue to grow. Consumers are demonstrating an increased desire…


Top stories


07 Feb 2020
Deli meat producer creates SA’s first plant-based sandwich slices

Feinschmecker Deli Meats, who have built up a formidable reputation as the market leader in speciality deli meats in South…

Deli meat producer creates SA’s first plant-based sandwich slices

Feinschmecker Deli Meats, who have built up a formidable reputation as the market leader in speciality deli meats in South Africa, has launched a range of plant-based sandwich slices under the brand name Gudness. It is the first range of its kind produced in SA.

18 Mar 2020
Limpopo residents become eco-warriors

Residents in northern Limpopo are becoming eco-warriors thanks to a new campaign which aims to see environmental waste reduced and…

Limpopo residents become eco-warriors

Residents in northern Limpopo are becoming eco-warriors thanks to a new campaign which aims to see environmental waste reduced and much-needed jobs created.

31 Mar 2020
Sleep friendly food and beverages are the next big trend with millennials

GlobalData predicts that sleep-friendly ingredients in food and drinks are the next big trend as it aligns with consumers’ desire…

Sleep friendly food and beverages are the next big trend with millennials

GlobalData predicts that sleep-friendly ingredients in food and drinks are the next big trend as it aligns with consumers’ desire for a good night’s rest through natural methods.

18 Mar 2020
Avocado growers celebrate the ancient history of avos this season

According to the THP 2020 Flavour & Trend Forecast*, Michelin star restaurants around the world will be increasingly seeking out…

Avocado growers celebrate the ancient history of avos this season

According to the THP 2020 Flavour & Trend Forecast*, Michelin star restaurants around the world will be increasingly seeking out traditional ingredients from some of the oldest civilizations this year, particularly Central and South America.


Visit the official COVID-19 government website to stay informed: sacoronavirus.co.za