By Charndré Emma Kippie
Cape Town-born Kate Elliot, has a legal background and has just been appointed CEO of Right to Repair SA (R2RSA). Taking on the new role with much pride, Kate would love to see the automotive industry lead the way and act as a guiding example of what can be achieved in an open and competitive market.
What got you into the field you’re currently in?
I am in an interesting position in that I am straddling two different worlds. The automotive industry and that of advocacy/non-profit work. I don’t have a background in the automotive industry. I actually have a legal background and was a practising attorney. I was looking for a more dynamic proactive role that would make a positive difference in the world when the opportunity presented itself with R2RSA.
What excites you the most about your role?
I am so excited about the work that R2RSA is doing and its potential to shake up the automotive industry to the benefit of all South Africans. I am extremely passionate about South Africa and our potential to be a thriving nation where anything is possible with determination and hard work – our own version of “The American Dream” so to speak. I would love to see the automotive industry lead the way and be an example of what can be achieved in an open and competitive market.
In what ways do you think your organisation/business is enhancing the South African economy?
Our very reason for existence is to create better competition in the automotive after-market for the benefit of the consumer, all role players in the industry and the economy. It is a known fact that a competitive market makes for a healthy economy. Competition policy aims to emulate free market conditions by creating regulatory institutions and procedures or laws that will ensure equal opportunities for all businesses, stimulate economic efficiency and protect consumers. By promoting and assisting with the adoption of the Guidelines for competition in the South African automotive aftermarket, we hope to help the Competition Commission to achieve its objectives in the publishing thereof.
Do you think your field is diverse in terms of gender equality?
I am fairly new to the automotive industry, but at first glance it would definitely appear as if women are not well represented in the automotive industry, especially in the more prominent positions. However, in the legal/advocacy field, representation is far better and improving all the time.
What are your top 3 tips for ensuring the success of women in your field?
- Know your worth and ask for what you need in order to get the job done.
- Don’t be afraid to operate like a woman in a male dominated arena. Women bring a very different kind of skillset to the workplace which can be of great value. Use these skills to your advantage.
- Don’t internalise problems or challenges. Women can sometimes internalise problems: we get inside of our own heads and make someone else’s misstep somehow our fault.
What have been some major obstacles in your career, as a woman, and how did you overcome them?
Having children. As a society we are still trying to figure out how to adapt our working practises to allow for the fact that in this day and age often both parents work. To overcome this I identified what kind of working conditions I needed in order to cope with the demands of both parenthood and working and I looked for a company that was willing to accommodate these needs. Moms are generally great at getting things done quickly and well because we don’t have time to redo work. We make sure that we get it right the first time and I feel that is a valuable skill to offer an employer.
What are your goals for the future?
I look forward to working with Right to Repair in achieving their goals and potentially growing the movement in South Africa to expand to all products that can be repaired. In the long term I intend on taking my family sailing around the world for a few years.
What important/life-changing books have you read?
I love books that are written by foreign writers, and that are set in historical contexts. Books such as these open one’s eyes to life from a perspective very different to one’s own. Examples are Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China by Jung Chang, Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt and Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller.
I am also a little bit obsessed with Martinique Stillwell’s Thinking up Hurricane and plan to follow in her family’s footsteps in the coming years.
Lastly, I can’t complete a book list without mentioning The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien. I have read it at least 10 times, and I have the Hobbit Trail Run through the Amathole Mountains, in the Eastern Cape, on my bucket list!
What advice do you have for young women entrepreneurs who aspire to work in your field?
Never stop learning and growing. If you continue to increase your skill set and experience in work that you enjoy doing, you will end up in the position that is right for you, no matter the field.
Do you have a special message for women across South Africa as we celebrate Women’s Month?
Women are powerful in very different ways to men. Many well-meaning female leadership development programmes teach women to negotiate, network and make decisions “like a man”. The unintended message this communicates is that there is something wrong with how women lead. Women in general have an innate desire to build connections and empathise with those around us. This is a huge strength that should not be discounted. So, to the women of South Africa I say, own your power and show the men how a woman gets things done!
*For more, check out our bumper 16th edition of the Standard Bank Top Women Leaders publication on Issuu – Digital Publishing Platform – here.
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