Posted 17 April 2023

International Women’s Day with Ford Employees who #EmbraceEquity

Ford Shares the Journeys of Six Employees Who #EmbraceEquity For International Women’s Day

PRETORIA, South Africa March 8, 2023 – Today is International Women’s Day, and this year Ford’s International Markets Group (IMG) is celebrating the day by asking six employees to share their thoughts on what this year’s theme #EmbraceEquity means to them.

Since its inception well over a century ago, International Women’s Day has grown to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women – and marks a call to action for accelerating women’s equality.

This year’s theme #EmbraceEquity is particularly poignant for women in Ford’s IMG region. Stretching from West Africa to New Zealand, Ford’s IMG region employs 28,000 people across 65 markets, supporting an enormous number of roles across a huge array of disciplines.

Ford’s workforce is diverse – drawing talent from across the globe to work on vehicles that encompass groundbreaking technologies, advanced new safety systems, class-defining design and engineering. Our teams are constantly finding new and diverse ways to streamline and enhance manufacturing techniques that help improve quality and enhance our products. That process can only be achieved if we work together to #EmbraceEquity.

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About the participants

Yandiswa Mdlalose joined Ford South Africa in 2002 as an operator at the Port Elizabeth (Gqeberha) engine plant. Through hard work and dedication, she gained several promotions and now is a Production Process Coach at Ford’s Silverton Plant in Pretoria. Her role is to ensure safety, quality and productivity objectives are met, and that staff receive coaching when required.

Yandiswa is also chairperson of the Women of Ford South Africa group, and a global partner in the Women of Ford programme. She is a mother of four and is married to husband Sihle Mdlalose.


“When we embrace equity, we embrace diversity and we embrace inclusion. Equality is the goal and equity is the means to get us there.”

“No one makes you feel inferior without your consent. Self-worth is so vital to your happiness. If you do not feel good about yourself, it’s hard to feel good about anything else.”


Maja Smith joined Ford ten years ago and is the first women to be appointed as FCSD director for South Africa. She started her career in public relations and spend time working for a PR company in London before moving back to South Africa. She continued in PR – with Ford as a client – before joining Ford full-time as product communications manager in 2013 and marketing communications manager in 2014. She joined the Customer Experience team as manager in 2018 and accepted her new role as Ford Customer Service Division director in July 2022.


“Embracing equity in the workplace means not ticking a box by perhaps promoting women, or only promoting women, or sending them on leadership courses or doing all those things you think women want, but really celebrating the fact that having women and men as equal partners will actually make the business better.”

“I am very grateful that I work for Ford, especially for South Africa, that has made such an impact and really appointing new women, promoting women and made a concerted effort to move the needle.”


Maria Khan was born in the USA to Pakistani immigrant parents. She developed a deeply rooted love for soccer at the age of six, and has continued to play since. She played division one soccer at the University of Denver and chose to move to Dubai to pursue her MBA in business administration. She joined Ford seven years ago while continuing her football career as a midfielder before her call to join a training camp of the Pakistan women’s national team in October 2020.

Maria is current captain of the Pakistan women’s national squad and represented her country at the Saudi Arabian Football Federation’s first ever International Friendly Tournament in January 2023 where she was praised for her “Bend it Like Beckham” inspired equaliser against Saudi Arabia by Pakistan’s prime minister Shehbaz Sharif.


“I’m so excited about because it’s something that we’ve not only heard in the corporate setting, we’ve heard it in the women’s sports world as well. Embrace equity. Now, what does embrace equity mean to me? It means we are going to continue to be on this journey of equaling the playing field for women.”

“Having the ability to create a healthy, competitive environment is extremely pivotal. Being able to bring out the best of your colleagues, bring out the best of your teammates. It’s going to come through collaboration, it’s going to come through dynamic discussions. And if we have the ability to create a positive culture for people to thrive in, the only way is forward.” 


Suzanne McConchie is an engineer in Ford’s Product Development team in Melbourne, Australia. She joined Ford 20 years ago having graduated Swinburne University with a degree in Product Design Engineering. After 11 years in various roles at the plant, Suzanne moved to product development team in 2014 and now works part time as a features software integration manager.

Suzanne and her husband Patrick built a sustainable passive home in 2019 and have recently moved to the Victoria’s Surf Coast with their two young sons.  She also started an online school for teaching women to sustainably create, and is also working on an app with one of the largest universities in Australia that will help divert building waste from landfill sites. Suzanne represents her home state of Victoria in water polo and played in the Victorian Masters team which won the National Water Polo title in 2022.


“If we embrace equity as a business, then we will be a better business. A company that has more people willing to share their thoughts and us hearing from everybody, then we’re a better business.”

“I think, recently, we’re seeing leadership understanding that equality and equity is not just the right thing to do, but good for business. So it’s starting to move the needle in a big way by tracking it and openly looking at how we can address our unconscious bias and be a company that puts equity and equality first.”


Sawanya Wiriyawattana, or Pang to her colleagues, joined Ford Thailand 18 years ago and worked as a supplier technical assistant at AAT (AutoAlliance Thailand) and FTM (Ford Thailand Manufacturing). She left the company in 2018 and that same year contracted pneumonia which affected her vision. Doctors told her that she would eventually lose her eyesight. After coming to terms with her diagnosis, Pang tackled her condition head on, developing new coping skills to help ease everyday tasks. She returned to Ford in January 2023 and retrained as an HR coordinator.

“People are ready to understand the differences between each other. They don’t judge or separate from physical appearance or nationality.”

“In my opinion as a differently abled person. I’m physically different as I cannot see but we all can live together by just only provide appropriate environment and tools for us These will help us be able to live our lives as normal and feel the equity.”


Phonpimon Boonsee works at AutoAlliance Thailand at the quality gate on the final assembly line. She has been with Ford for the past 12 years, and says she has been lucky enough to have worked in every work station in her department thanks to the support of her supervisor.

She has been drawn to helping others from a young age, and became an emergency services volunteer supporting highway traffic authorities. She was able to combat cynicism from her male colleagues in the volunteer service by showing that she was dedicated to learning and was serious about helping people in emergency situations.


“No matter where I work, I want people to provide opportunities. I want them to look in a bigger picture that I can also do it.”


Original Article: Ford Dealerview