Thandeka Phiri

National Training and HR Manager at Motor Industry Staff Association (MISA)

In 2017, MISA partnered with Progression on a long-term project to instill a best practice approach to Disability Management across their stakeholders, with Thandeka leading and promoting the initiative.

What do you think is the significance of Women’s Day?

For me Women’s Day has two focus areas:

  1. The past, where we recognise the extraordinary acts of women who stood together, as a united force, to advance gender equality around the world. In this regard it is an opportunity to appreciate the generations of women whose struggles laid the foundations for the progress achieved in empowering women to date.
  2. The present-to-the future, where we recognise the extraordinary acts of women in overcoming obstacles towards greatness, women who lend a hand to others and stand united with other women, both young and old, to overcome the struggles encountered by women daily, within the workplace and within society as a whole. The women who have made use of the opportunities and doors opened to them in order to make a difference in the lives of others and advance to greatness.

What challenges have you encountered as a woman in the corporate world?

I have had to deal with:

  • Assumed limitations on what I could achieve because of my gender.
  • Stereotypes in being considered a risk due to the possibility of disrupting operations through pregnancy and motherhood.
  • Having to prove myself twice as much as male counterparts, not based on my abilities or lack thereof, but based on the fact that I was a young female in male dominated industries.
  • Prejudice, where some managers at times did not take me seriously until my actions and/or recommendations were proven to be true or were backed up by other males.

Which female role model inspired you to succeed?

Choosing one is very difficult for me because I have been very fortunate in that I have always been surrounded by strong, determined and ethical women. My grandmother succeeded by never letting anything stand in her way and took every challenge head on, put in the hard work and succeeded in all of her ventures. She was a strong but very loving, giving and compassionate person who always made a difference in the lives of others. My mother, despite her setbacks, overcame the odds and achieved her goals while she cared for her ill mother and a young child on her own, all the while assisting others in need. She continues to take in and care for those in need till this day, without any expectations.

In the workplace, I have been inspired, mentored and surrounded by great leaders who have not allowed the biases against women in male dominated environments hinder their resolve, actions and successes. These are women who have challenged and pushed boundaries and found alternatives when the conventional doors were closed to them – women to whom success is not a solo journey but involves empowering, giving and caring about others and making a difference in the lives of those they encounter, regardless of their own circumstances.

SHEroes at Work

“The circles of women around us weave invisible nets of love that carry us when we are weak and sing with us when we are strong”