But I have to admit, when I joined the motoring industry in 2006, leadership roles especially, were mostly dominated by men, and a love for cars and being a “petrol head” was considered more of a guy’s thing. Doing my part in breaking down the stereotype meant believing in myself, staying true to who I am and sharing my views. It’s something I can whole-heartedly encourage women to do in their respective fields. If you’re not happy with something, drive the change in your immediate field and take a critical look at your team, ensuring everyone is on the same page. If it feels unbalanced, change what you can and always motivate for what’s out of your control. But never forget to be fair. It’s one of the best qualities a leader can have. Having made it this far in my career, I really don’t believe that you need to be overly intimidating or tough to make it as a woman in leadership. You will gain a lot more respect by being fair and driving objectives in a consistent way. We are all humans and need to treat our teams and those around us how we ourselves would want to be treated.
I’ve had some truly amazing experiences over the past 15 years in the motoring industry. My start in research was the best grounding to really understand customers and how they think and what they expect from our industry. I was fortunate enough to lead the re-launch of a brand and its full product range locally, even travelling to Europe to represent a South African OEM as a best practice market for marketing creativity and a first of its kind pricing study. I’ve led powerful data projects and propensity modelling, increasing sales and revenue, while launching the iconic new Defender in SA and SSA. And every now and again, I live the petrol head’s dream, test driving the latest vehicles under incredibly trying and exhilarating conditions.
But I won’t lead you down the path of believing that women can have it all. Because honestly, no one can have it all, all of the time. Always be humble and open enough to ask for and accept help. My husband has been incredibly supportive, helping me achieve a balance between life and work. When I have a lot on my plate like a big launch or work milestone, he takes on greater responsibilities at home, as I do for him when he has more than enough on the go at once. Team work is a beautiful thing that will save you a lot of sleepless nights and grow your relationship in the long run.
When women believe in themselves, their capabilities and their strengths, accepting that failures and difficult challenges are just detours on the road to success, we’ll etch away at gender parity together, bit by bit. Stay true to yourself. Be confident and share your opinions. Everyone has value to add, never be afraid to share it. Be consistent and clear in what you want to achieve, and work with those around you to learn as much as you possibly can. I can honestly say that I have learnt something from every single person I’ve worked with along the way, from associates working on the plant line to global counterparts. Everyone has something to teach, you just need to take the time to listen.
To all the women carving out their path in life and their careers, be visionary, be clear with your big ideas, dare to dream and always be strong enough to be yourself and stand up for what drives you and those around you.
Carmen Slade, Marketing Director, Jaguar Land Rover South Africa and Sub-Sahara Africa