A powerful team of women leaders
Bureau Veritas Southern Africa, the global leader in testing, inspection and certification, continues to spark interest in the southern African professional working environment.
The company is renowned for services and innovative solutions that ensure client products, infrastructure and processes meet standards and regulations, in terms of quality, health and safety, environmental protection and social responsibility.
It has also notched up a few more points on the women’s empowerment and social responsibility agendas.
The company has, in recent months, under the direction of renowned leader Sal Govender, increased its female leadership gender dynamic considerably. Commenting during Women’s Month in South Africa, Govender, who is the vice-president of Bureau Veritas Southern Africa, said: “Increasing the number of women in leadership roles has been high on the Bureau Veritas agenda globally; and in Southern Africa, we are taking great strides to allow more women to show their mettle, both inside and outside of the boardroom.
“We now have an engaging team of men and women on our executive that complement each other beautifully, ensuring our company is run like a well-oiled machine! Everyone brings their uniqueness to the table, thereby super-powering the outcome.”
Women from various professional backgrounds, ethnicities and countries add intelligence and relevance to the engineering- and scientifically-driven testing, inspections and certification powerhouse. Govender herself was voted by Elle magazine in 2015 as one of South Africa’s top women to work for and is a strong advocate of community building through education and social upliftment initiatives.
Joanne Barton is the managing director of M&L Labs and has been with Bureau Veritas and M&L Labs for 18 years. A chemist by profession, Barton advises that technical people are often not sociable networkers and need courage to get “out there”.
With an engaging sense of humour, she believes in setting the bar high and manages to keep her work/life balance, despite being on call most of the time. The secret, she believes, lies in being passionate about her job. Her advice to other women who have ambitions to achieve a leadership role is: “Make sure you are always true to yourself, honest in your role and be clear about your goals, never let anyone make you do what you gut says is wrong - be bold and say ‘no’. Self-respect is of utmost importance.”
Neda Taghadosi, an electronics engineer with an MBA, has recently been promoted to industry and certification director and has been with the company for six years. She is a strong supporter of keeping employees motivated and ensuring the correct people are recruited for their respective roles. In the build-up to Women’s Month, an enthusiastic Taghadosi commented: “We are indeed in very exciting times and it’s encouraging to see the gender balance in the company.”
Her advice to other women who have ambitions to achieve a leadership role is: “Always thank your employees for going the extra mile, care about them because you cannot be successful without their support. Get a mentor, you can learn so much from them… and don’t ever feel embarrassed to apologise for a mistake you made!”
Grace Mabasa has been with Bureau Veritas for 16 years and is the company’s government services and international trade manager. Mabasa manages and plans the operational and commercial activities pertaining to government contracts. As a leader, she believes that encouraging diverse teams to work together motivates them to recognise the strengths of their combined talents, which in turn enhances the success of the organisation.
Time management and the setting of priorities help her maintain an effective work/life balance. Her advice to other women who have ambitions to achieve a leadership role is: “Work hard, strive for what you believe in and don’t give up on your dreams. Leave a legacy for tomorrow, as you are writing it daily.”
Emilie Bigot is the financial director of Bureau Veritas Southern Africa and enjoys a staff component of some 30 employees. Bigot is fully responsible for finance and purchasing for the company. Her biggest challenge is to ensure open communication channels between the various employees across the countries within her leadership ambit. She too has seen an increase in women in leadership since she joined the organisation five years ago. Her mid-management team are all women, which she is proud of. Her advice to other women who have ambitions to achieve a leadership role is: “Hard work is always rewarded, so believe in yourself. Too many women lack self-confidence, but have excellent skills; so I encourage you, make it happen!”
Beatrice Scharneck is the district human resources manager for Bureau Veritas Southern Africa and has been with the company for 10 years. Her goal is to ensure employees are inspired, collaborative and engaged; thereby ensuring the company’s sustained future. Scharneck is an avid supporter of communities and corporate societal marketing. She manages to strike a balance between work and family by remembering that family is of utmost importance, while still enjoying a fulfilling and rewarding career (and having fun in both). Her advice to other women who have ambitions to achieve a leadership role is: “Nothing is impossible, believe in yourself, take the bull by the horns and go for it! Keep your eye on the ball and remain focused on your dream; then strive to make it a reality.”
The executive leadership team of the company now enjoys a healthy gender and demographic balance, which has made a positive impact on the culture and employee morale. The company recently completed a month-long corporate societal campaign embracing community building and giving back to those less fortunate.
Mandela Day on 18 July formed an integral part of the weekly community activities around the country, while paying homage to the late Nelson Mandela for his inspiration and encouragement to make a difference. In 2020 the campaign will be rolled out into various African countries to further cement the culture of making a difference.
In June 2019, under Govender’s leadership, the company launched the Ithemba Trust, a women’s empowerment body involved in projects benefitting girls and young women in South Africa. Aligned to Bureau Veritas Southern Africa’s strong social awareness ethos, the trust focuses on empowering females from previously disadvantaged backgrounds, with a focus on education of young black women in the STEM disciplines of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. After graduation, the company will absorb the young ladies into the business and upskill them with soft skills on work readiness. Enterprise development assistance will be provided to those that wish to launch their own businesses and work will be subcontracted to them to ensure they can sustain their businesses and achieve success. The trust focuses on beneficiaries hailing from areas in which Bureau Veritas employees live and work. To date, the trust has provided two full bursaries for students Keletso Moekona and Sanelisiwe Mabaso to study a BEng Mining at the University of Johannesburg and a BSC Biological Sciences at Wits University, respectively.
Bureau Veritas is an avid supporter of promoting women in the workplace that will add value and gravitas to the brand and its success. Building communities and creating a sustainable future remain high on the company’s priority list.
“We are dedicated to creating legacies and ultimately building a nation. We are poised to improve the lives of women, the backbone of society, and thereby bringing a steady balance to communities and workplaces,” Govender added.