During Women’s Month in South Africa, we celebrate the women that reflect our values as an intrinsic part of who we are as a company. For us, creating a culture that promotes inclusion, celebrates diversity and champions equality is a business imperative that fuels our future growth, promotes creativity and fosters innovation. As a Coca-Cola system, it’s the individuals that create an inclusive and empowered culture within the organisation as well as supporting and inspiring women in the value chain.

This commitment to improve gender diversity was recognised at the Standard Bank Top Women Awards with Velaphi Ratshefola, the Managing Director of Coca-Cola Beverages South Africa (CCBSA), being awarded in the Top Gender Empowered Organisation: Male Driving Gender Empowerment category, where he was recognised for his excellence in empowering and developing women across its supply chain.

The Standard Bank Top Women Awards ceremony took place at Emperors Palace in Johannesburg, SA on 15 August 2019 attended by business and government leaders, VIPs and members of the media.

Ratshefola has played a pivotal leadership role in ensuring diversity, inclusion and empowering women in their career development within the organisation as well as externally through small business development and entrepreneurial activities. “We are proud of our work in developing not only our own women staff to key leadership positions at all levels of our operations, but also investing in women entrepreneurs to become integral partners, particularly through our Owner Driver Scheme and Local Distribution Programme.”

Over the past couple of years, The Coca-Cola Company globally, has deliberately spearheaded the issue of Women’s Empowerment and Gender Equality in the workplace, where women accounted for 44.5% of mid-level leadership roles and the number of women in senior leadership positions was at 32.2% as of December 31, 2017.

Some of these women who have made impacts are Immaculate Makgae and Mahlako Hiine. We spoke to them about the opportunities they’ve had at CCBSA.

Logistics lures female talent

Immaculate Makgae, Operations Manager at Midrand, CCBSA

Traditionally, logistics was an area few women were attracted to.  But for Immaculate Makgae, logistics represented an opportunity to touch many people’s lives, and an exciting working environment.

“Because logistics touches so much, it provides a great opportunity to learn a range of different skills, and thus provides space in which an ambitious person can grow,” she adds.

Immaculate says that both her parents were committed to developing people, and the same idea motivates her. Increasingly, she tends to see success not solely in terms of promotions or financial reward but also in terms of how much of an impact she has made in other people’s lives. This philosophy ties in with her belief that success is linked to an individual’s drive and determination, not her qualifications or experience.

“If you have passion and self-motivation, then everything else will fall into place,” she says. “You have to be hungry.”

Immaculate emphasises the supportive environment at CCBSA which has helped her grow into her role.

“One of the things I like most about CCBSA is that the women build each other up, they are rooting for each other. That’s often not true in society generally, but here that’s very much the culture,” she says. “The other big factor is that CCBSA develops its own. The company invests in its people, especially its women, and that kind of support has meant that I am able to build a career.”

Helping women thrive

Mahlako Hiine, stock manager with the Logistics Division, CCBSA

Mahlako Hiine says a workplace that is supportive of women helps create a company-wide culture where women can thrive.

“I have about 180 guys reporting to me, most of them older than I am, and I really anticipated that could be problematic—but it was quite the opposite. I think that if they can see you are dedicated, they respect what you are doing,” she says. “These are experienced people and they have lots of good advice to contribute, and it’s highly appreciated. It’s like being part of an extended family, in some ways. They’ll often tell me I’m spending too much time working and need to get my work/ life balance better adjusted!”

Mahlako was first attracted to logistics because she’s not shy of a challenge.

“Logistics touches everything in work and life, because all the things you need had to get there,” says Mahlako. “Making that happen requires you to be a problem-solver and a lateral thinker. It’s a very challenging discipline—no day is ever the same.”

Now a stock manager with the logistics division of Coca-Cola Beverages South Africa, she recalls being intrigued when one of her university lecturers said that working in logistics would involve solving problems you didn’t know you even had, in ways you had never imagined.

The promise of continuous challenges and the opportunity to solve them creatively appealed to her. The FMCG environment in which CCBSA operates also makes for a fast-paced workplace.

Of course, building a great career and attaining one’s goals is never a solo venture. Mahlako says her mother played a huge role in showing her how a determined woman could succeed.

“As one of the first black female managers at IBM, my mother believed strongly in the power of education and the need to stand on one’s own two feet. She came from a difficult background, so nothing was handed to her on a plate,” she says. “She also taught me that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. She helped me so much, and I will try to do the same for the generation that comes after me.”