The theme for this year’s Women’s Day on 9 August is ‘Generation Equality: Realising Women’s Rights for an Equal Future’. In keeping with this theme, it is fitting that the achievements of women are acknowledged in the spirit of increased diversity and inclusion policies. Today even traditionally male-dominated technical industries are slowly bearing the fruit of these policies, as two women at the coalface of Bearing International’s sales and customer service operation can attest.

Khutso Mokwena, External Sales Representative at BI. Image credit: Bearings International

Khutso Mokwena, External Sales Representative at BI. Image credit: Bearings International

The concept of Generation Equality is a global campaign that links South Africa to global efforts to achieve gender equality by 2030. Gender equality in this timeframe requires urgent action to eliminate the many root causes of discrimination that still curtail women’s rights in the private and public domain.

“There has been progress in terms of diversity and inclusion, especially on the sales side, where we now have black women who are external sales reps. I hope in the next couple of years to see more women at BI in management roles, especially at branch level,” comments Thato Esther Kekana.

Thato’s main responsibilities are to increase sales prospects by reaching out to potential new customers. She also introduces new products and provides solutions to specific customer requirements. In this way she plays a direct and integral role in reinforcing the company’s values and the brand itself.

Thato obtained her Diploma in Marketing Management in 2018, commencing her career at BI in 2020 as a sales intern, quickly working her way up to internal salesperson. “When the opportunity arose, I had the experience to apply for my current position and was fortunate enough to get it.”

Khutso Mokwena concurs that the types of industries that BI services, from general engineering to mining, are showing green shoots in terms of diversity and inclusion. “I feel we are moving in a progressive direction as I see more females in leadership positions.”

However, stereotypes persist, especially due to the highly competitive nature of business. “But females are advancing in these technical industries,” notes Khutso. As an external sales rep, her main task is to provide field sales with leads for new and existing customers in industries as diverse as manufacturing and food and beverage.

Thato Esther Kekana, Sales Representative at BI. Image credit: Bearings International

Thato Esther Kekana, Sales Representative at BI. Image credit: Bearings International

Khutso also works closely with the product managers and business development leaders to promote the diverse solutions and high-end brands that BI distributes. She has a fitter and turner certificate from the Manufacturing, Engineering and Related Services Sector Education and Training Authority (merSETA), in addition to having completed various sales and marketing courses.

She is thankful for the opportunities that BI has afforded her. Thato concurs: “There are so many wonderful things about working for BI. I enjoy the company culture and have found my colleagues to have been supportive throughout my time here. I have been provided with any training I have requested.” It is this support and encouragement that makes both women confident about their continued future in both BI and in South Africa’s industrial landscape.

Thato’s advice to women contemplating a similar career is: “Do not compare yourself to others. Work hard, as no job is beneath you. Soak up the knowledge available to you. Do not be discouraged or demotivated. Keep going. Always show yourself and others respect. Do not be too proud to ask for help when you need it. Always have a goal in mind and a path of how to achieve it.”