With the support of Volvo CE and its dealer partners, women across Africa are pursuing careers in the traditionally male-dominated field of mechanics, enhancing their opportunities in life, and delivering outstanding aftermarket service for customers.
Volvo Construction Equipment (Volvo CE) is on a mission to “build the world we want to live in”. This vision encompasses not only a commitment to sustainability and connectivity but also an unwavering dedication to achieving gender equality within the company.
A few years ago, Volvo CE set an ambitious target to have at least 35% female leaders and employees by 2024. To this end, the company has implemented significant initiatives to encourage women, especially young women, to consider careers in the construction equipment industry. Since then, Volvo CE has witnessed remarkable progress, not only within its own ranks but also among its network of dealer partners.
Students at one of the Ghabbour vocational schools in Egypt.
Equality begins with education
Through the Ghabbour Foundation for Development, established by GB Auto, Volvo CE’s Egyptian dealer Ghabbour, for example, is working tirelessly to bridge the gender gap in vocational education. Out of 1000 students currently enrolled across three vocational schools set up by the foundation in Egypt, 150 are now female.
"The foundation acts as a gateway for companies to recruit highly qualified technicians who match their needs and for students to find well-paid jobs that align with their qualifications. We are particularly dedicated to promoting women's roles in a traditionally male-dominated sector and encouraging women to join the commercial vehicle specialisation program,” says Aleya Serageldin, Executive Director for the Ghabbour Foundation for Development.
Dina, a third-year student at one of the Ghabbour vocational schools, specialising in commercial vehicle maintenance, says: “As I entered this specialisation, I developed a genuine passion for it and am determined to excel. My trainers have been incredibly supportive from the beginning, urging me to strive for excellence. After completing my education, I dream of working and honing my skills, and I envision enrolling in a university in the same field for higher education. Ultimately, I aspire to establish the service center I’ve always dreamed of owning.”
Thando from Babcock in South Africa.
Women in the workshop
Babcock, Volvo CE’s dealer partner in Southern Africa, meanwhile, has developed a strong team of female mechanics at its workshops. Thando, a 26-year-old woman working at Babcock, began her journey with an apprenticeship program in 2019.
“My fascination with mechanics started at a young age when I helped fix my father’s taxis,” she says. “On my journey, I met an amazing neighbour who taught me that mechanics is about more than just cars. His help sparked a strong interest in me. I’ve had incredible mentors guiding me throughout my journey. On Saturdays, we have special training sessions where we simulate faults and solve problems. It’s a great learning experience. Day-to-day, I handle various tasks like stripping engines and overhauling transmissions and brakes. I’m also the designated driver on site. I manage the loading and off-loading of machines from transport. I’m licensed to operate everything from forklifts to rigid trucks. Right now, I’m focused on advancing my career. I’m studying instrumentation at Unisa. It helps me stay up to date with improvements in engine management, emissions, control, telematics, and other related topics. Believing in yourself opens endless possibilities. I tell everyone – go out and follow your dreams!”
Lonah’s is another inspiring story. She started working at a Babcock workshop in 2018. “After high school, a friend suggested diesel mechanics to me. The more I researched, the more fascinated I became with machines. I decided to give it a shot and guess what? I found it to be perfect! I absolutely love being a diesel mechanic! Today, I’m proud to say that there are six women working alongside me in this workshop. We support and encourage each other every day. It’s amazing to see this progress. To all the girls out there who dream of pursuing a career in mechanics, don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it. Gender should never limit your potential. Embrace your passion, work hard, and believe in yourself. You can achieve anything,” she says.
Wendy from Leal in Mauritius.
Moving up the career ladder
After working at Leal in Mauritius for 14 years, Wendy exemplifies the career growth and success that women can achieve. She started as a mechanic aged 17 and is now a customer support representative, responsible for traveling across the island to meet customers, assess their needs, and advise them outside of the workshop.
“My passion for mechanics came from growing up with two older brothers. I was always in the garage with my brothers, working with them on cars and trucks,” she says. “Mechanics is an interesting subject and becoming a technician seemed logical for me. I am a problem solver and working on a difficult case motivates me. To allow an excavator or truck to go back into the field or on the road and see the satisfaction of our clients is very rewarding for me. For my clients, I am always there to give them the best advice and share my knowledge in order for them to exploit the full potential of the machines.”
The significance of achieving a better gender balance in the construction equipment industry goes far beyond a social obligation; it’s also a smart business move. The industry, faced with challenges such as a shortage of skilled labor, especially among service technicians, recognizes that nurturing talent, regardless of gender, is essential. As Christophe Lagandre, Head of Market Area Africa at Volvo CE aptly puts it: “Having a better gender balance is not just the right thing to do for society. It’s also good for business and helps us deliver the best possible support for our customers.”