Women’s voices: Zama Khanyile
Time and again, studies have shown the tremendous benefits of advancing women in the workplace. Gender diversity makes teams stronger, smarter and leads to better decision-making – and that’s good for business.
Increasing women’s participation in the traditionally male-dominated manufacturing industry means giving their voices more prominence, and spotlighting personal stories of success.
As Women’s Month draws to a close, Beier’s trailblazers are sharing their thoughts on everything from workplace inclusion, mentorship and the unique skills women bring to our company.
Zama got her start at the Beier Group right out of university and is now a research and development manager at Beier Envirotec. After completing a Chemical Engineering degree, and undergoing extensive mentorship and job shadowing, she replaced more than 40 years of product design experience when her predecessor retired, instantly making her a vital member of the Beier team.
On getting a head start
“I’ve gained experience in a vast and interesting field…”
Through Beier’s bursary programme, I was able to cover all of my tuition, giving me an invaluable educational foothold. Since then, I’ve been able to learn about, and gain experience in, the vast and interesting textile engineering field.
On starting out in a male-dominated industry
“I was given the space to learn and contribute…”
It’s hugely important for women to be treated with respect and be given the space to learn and contribute as much as possible. Having been a family-owned business for a number of decades, Beier has retained its strong core values, including a commitment to supporting, encouraging and developing its people. I have personally benefitted from extensive mentorship and training, both locally and abroad, which has helped my personal and professional growth.
On building your networks
“Networks are key to growth as a female professional…”
For a young female professional in this industry, early exposure to the many different aspects of the business is incredibly important, whether it’s being included in key meetings or having your ideas and contributions communicated to the rest of the organisation. This exposure allowed me to interact with teams from a range of company divisions, and to provide my input in finding solutions to problems. As a result, I’ve been able to form relationships and networks both internally and externally, which has been key in my growth as a female professional.
On the importance of mentorship
“Indlela ibuzwa kwabaphambili…”
We have a saying in Zulu: “Indlela ibuzwa kwabaphambili.” Loosely translated, it means that it is those who have come before us who can show us the way. I have had the privilege of being coached by and working with experienced engineers and professionals in the manufacturing field, and I’ve learned a great deal from them. What they do not teach you at school is that 10% of the challenges you face at work are technical – the rest are about dealing with people. Mentorship certainly helps to bridge this gap. It’s also invaluable in discovering different ways of thinking about and tackling challenges, and helps you maintain focus on where you are headed.
On women uplifting women
“Women can relate to each other…”
Woman-to-woman coaching is important because we understand the challenges we collectively face, especially in male-dominated industries. Women can relate to each other on issues that are not easy for men to grasp … although one should strive to be mindful of the male perspective, too.