Growing Women of Worth
The concept of generation equality is a global campaign and links South Africa to global efforts to achieve gender equality by 2030. During the month of August we celebrate being a woman in all our complexities, beauty and strength.
It is time to honour the women who came before us - and all the ones who will be trailblazers after us. National Women's Month in South Africa is devoted to celebrating achievements of women and seeking gender equality. This is a time where South Africa focuses its attention on women and their rol in sciety and their contribution to South Africa's progress.
Any story that a woman can tell that positively shapes mindsest, and uplifts minds and hearts and fosters a healthier culture, is a good story.
As we enter into the last few weeks of the Women's Month, we will profile 4 women in leadership positions in MTO across various business units - a clear demonstration of our commitment to holistic transformation and growing our people. We trust this will serve as a motivation to seize the opportunities presented to us leading to our growth and development within the MTO environment and our communities.
“Hard work and dedication always pays off” – that’s what Rushda’s journey with MTO has been all about. From joining as a Regional HR Manager in 2011 to becoming the Chief People Officer in 2020, she has seen her professional and personal growth develop exponentially within the company, which has resulted in a skilled personnel specialist in touch with the human capital she is tasked to shepherd.
Over the last 18 months we have shifted gears, all our strategies are built around our Holistic Transformation Strategy linked to the following four pillars:
Grow our People
Socio Economic Development
“Managing the fears and concerns of employees is one of the biggest challenges faced by HR. The success of our organization is based on the talent, passion & integrity of our people. We aim to strengthen organizational capacity throughout the business to be able to respond to change in an agile and flexible way and to facilitate a collaborative workplace culture where employees are actively engaged and individually developed.”
A qualified Chartered Accountant, Cindy moved out of the healthcare business and into the arms of the forestry industry some four years ago and hasn’t looked back. Belying the stereotyping of accountants of yesteryear, Cindy’s outgoing personality and straightforward no-nonsense approach, embraces a love of numbers with a keen interest in people. This dual interest has helped her forge a gameplan for MTO that has seen us grow from strength to strength. Part of that progression is working with the Group CEO, Greg and the executive on a strategy that has seen the Group diversify operations.
Essentially, people and numbers are all stories waiting to be told, and understanding people helps the numbers stack up”, she says. There isn’t an average workday, something Cindy appreciates about working for MTO. Amongst her distinct qualities, Cindy has ability to cut through the clutter and take what is essentially a traditional industry and see new and better ways to enhance business processes, although not necessarily discarding the old for the new.
Commenting on gender equity in Corporate South Africa , Cindy says whereas in the past women may have needed to overly assert themselves to achieve their positions and be respected in their roles, today she is not afraid to speak her mind – she’s there “for my skills and my brainpower and that’s more than enough, I don’t need to qualify it.” Her philosophy: “Be myself whilst being kind and respectful of others and the planet to effect good.”
Christel started in the forestry industry in 1999, taking up an internship at SAFCOL within the Research and Nursery department at Karatara. Christel was later employed permanently by MTO and proceeded to work her way up. With a keen interest in research, Christel joined the Planning Department as the Forest Planner. She quickly excelled and became a recognised expert in forestry planning.
She was promoted to Research Manager in 2017 and was responsible for the pine breeding programme in the Southern Cape and established the Eucalyptus tree breeding programme in the Mpumalanga, Lowveld area.
In December 2021 she moved into the role of Manager Technical Services in charge of all our forestry development which encompasses research, forestry planning & GIS, environmental management and land matters. From seeds to sawmill, Christel and her team are constantly researching and analysing the best genus of trees to suit the ever-changing environments.
Christel takes the lead on deciding when the trees are ready for harvesting. She plays a vital role in the process of determining the future of MTO’s plantations. She is passionate about this industry because of her love of nature and being able to spend as much time as possible in the outdoors. As she has moved along within her career, Christel has found the forestry environment exciting and challenging. She is now based at the research facility at Karatara, where she works closely with the nursery to ensure that the best genetic material is deployed for commercial planting.
Christel says, “I would certainly encourage women to join this industry because it is an exciting and fantastic career path. Forestry is a diverse industry with many different career opportunities to choose from and with the consistent help and support of various mentors and excellent leadership from MTO, the possibilities are endless!”
Christel is an energetic force to be reckoned with, whose cheerful disposition and hands on leadership approach is much respected and admired, including her trees.