SARISHA GOVENDER: Head of Finance and HR at MAHLE Behr

#AutomotiveAllies: Sarisha Govender, nominated by Alex Holmes, is Head of Finance and HR at MAHLE Behr South Africa. Sarisha’s journey in the automotive industry started 13 years ago when she first joined MAHLE as the Financial Accountant. As a relatively newly qualified CA(SA), Sarisha had to find her feet quickly in this male dominated environment.

When Sarisha began her career at MAHLE, she was young and inexperienced but passionate about learning and developing. MAHLE offered her many opportunities to use as steppingstones for growth in her career. Sarisha was later promoted to Financial Manager, with full accountability for the entire Finance Department and GIST Department, which deals with Customs compliance and managing the APDP processes. With Sarisha’s audit and risk management experience, they were quickly able to limit the challenges the team faced with the implementation of the necessary internal controls to manage potential risks.

In March 2016, Sarisha joined the Executive Management Group as Head of Finance – ZA, moving her responsibilities to further include topics such as B-BBEE and commercial legal matters.

In May 2018, Sarisha assumed the role of Head of HR – ZA, in addition to her current Finance responsibilities.

Today, Sarisha serves as the only female executive at MAHLE, responsible for two of the largest portfolios, Finance and HR, for South Africa. Sarisha is proud to have gained the mutual respect and trust of her male peers and continues to make her mark in the organization, through hard work, dedication and commitment.

Sarisha truly shows that the possibilities are endless when it comes to furthering one’s learning development. Sarisha has stretched herself beyond the boundaries of her comfort zone which has ensured that this remains a continuous process for her.

Sarisha’s five #ThingsIWishIKnew when starting in the automotive industry

  1. Don’t underestimate your abilities, especially in the presence of males who have been in the industry for years
  2. Don’t be intimidated to speak your mind regarding your opinions on issues. Maintain your confidence and put your views forward – not everyone has to or will agree with you, and that is okay, but stand firm in your beliefs
  3. Be assertive
  4. Believe in yourself!! You CAN do this!
  5. In the words of Rihanna, “There’s something so special about a woman who dominates in a man’s world. It takes a certain strength, intelligence, fearlessness and the nerve to never take no for an answer.”

Sarisha’s five ways to empower women within the industry #TheFutureIsFemale

  1. Allow them to “learn by doing” – give them the tools they require and give them the freedom to demonstrate their abilities. Create the right opportunities for them to thrive.
  2. Create a safe environment for them to learn without fear of punishment – people learn best from the mistakes they make in life along the way. Don’t dwell on the mistake but focus on the learnings.
  3. Encourage them to focus on their career growth and development through targeted activities – mentorship, coaching, etc.
  4. Celebrate each other’s’ strengths as women – build them up! Be an example for others to emulate, such that they will in turn pass it on to others and so keep the cycle continuous.
  5. Consider making certain jobs in the industry more attractive to females through key messages using social media platforms, school and university open days, company open days – showcasing what we do, etc. Let the future females change the way in which we have always seen the Automotive industry and certain roles (“it’s a man’s job”), such that going forward the industry is no longer described by reference to any one gender.