International Women's Day: Celebrating Nissan South Africa's Diversity, Equity & Inclusion heroes
To commemorate International Women's Day, which took place on 8 March, under the theme #EmbraceEquity, Nissan is celebrating the employees whose contributions to the company's Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council (DEI) have ensured these values remain at the forefront of the business.
The DEI initiative aims to improve business results by ensuring that Nissan's core businesses meet the distinct needs of an increasingly diverse customer base and labour market. Driving Nissan's commitment to creating a culture where everyone belongs and employees, customers, and partners feel respected, valued, and heard.
One such hero is Melissa Steele, whose passion for impactful leadership has seen her raise her hand to play a part in the growth of the many young women joining the ranks at Nissan South Africa.
She tells us more about her journey:
- How has your life experiences enriched / impacted your career?
My life experiences have taught me to never underestimate the power of collaboration both personally and in the work environment. We are often faced with unique challenges that seem impossible to solve when considering it on your own, but by working together, getting perspectives from those who do not share the same views as you do, can lead to great solutions to overcoming these challenges.
- What is an unexpected lesson that the sector has taught you about career development?
I would not call it unexpected, but one of the most important lessons in my career so far, has been that you have to prove yourself with the small things, by doing them really well to build credibility and be trusted with bigger responsibilities.
- What is a barrier that you see for women progressing within the sector?
Traditionally, the automotive sector is seen as a space for men – which has meant that women are not always exposed to this specific career path and even when they are, tend to be overlooked for their male counterparts where opportunities are concerned. This is a huge barrier, one that requires organisation to pay particular attention to truly achieving transformation within the sector, by providing a diverse, equitable and inclusive environment.
I normally urge the young women I work with to ensure they raise their hands to be part of initiatives that can further show their value, passion and dedication, as these opportunities often provide a way to further showcase your talent and can lead to even bigger opportunities.
- What do you think is an undervalued solution to making the sector equitable?
A focused and deliberate effort by organisations to attract, recruit and retain female talent. And whilst doing so, provide the right developmental opportunities and leadership guidance where women can fully and visibly showcase their skills, which will support in professional growth and career advancement. An example is the graduate programme at Nissan South Africa, which is a deliberate programme that encourages the employment and retention of a 50% split between male and female graduates.
- Tell us about your role in supporting DEI and gender equity.
My role is to create a safe environment where I can gather diverse perspectives from all stakeholder groups in the workplace and ensuring that they are included in the final proposals that I develop for the business. It is also providing coaching and career advice, as well as development opportunities through key business projects, to the young women I work with at Nissan South Africa.