29 October 2010

Bridging the Gap

There is no escaping the fact that Volvo Trucks operates in a traditionally male-dominated industry. This is reflected in the low representation of women in VISTA, however fostering diversity and gender equality have long been amongst Volvo’s core values, and VISTA does play an important role in breaking down barriers.

In 2009 Debora Rocco from Argentina travelled to Volvo’s global headquarters in Gothenburg, Sweden, to take part in the VISTA World Final. She was the only woman amongst the 28 teams taking part, and VISTA had given her an opportunity to prove she deserved to be among the best.

“I think that the first and worst difficulty is getting accepted and to show that a woman is able to do the job. It’s about breaking preconceptions,” says Debora. “But once you break the ice and your environment is used to seeing a woman, it’s not difficult any more.”

For Debora, being asked to represent her dealership in VISTA was the ultimate gesture of acceptance. “I had already decided to participate in VISTA but I was not sure whether any team would accept me, so it was a revelation when Martin, Gustavo and Gabriel had already decided that the fourth participant in their team would be me. It was a very pleasant surprise.” The four formed team Metanoia, who not only blitzed through three rounds of theoretical questions to be Argentina’s sole representatives in the Latin American semi-finals, but also went all the way to the World Final.

“I felt very comfortable at the World Final, and our VISTA hosts did a great job at making me feel welcome,” recalls Debora. “They even dedicated a song to me at the Award ceremony, and Volvo has always made a special effort at increasing equal opportunities.”

By providing a level playing field, where skills and expertise are tested by standardised objective criteria, VISTA allows women like Debora to prove their ability and overcome any prejudice or preconceptions. “VISTA helped me to evaluate my own performance. We really tested our professional level and our problem solving abilities, and that’s something nobody can take away from you or call into question.”

“To participate in VISTA helps to prove to ourselves and others that we really are competent technicians,” says Sara Landino, echoing the views of Debora. In Italy, 34 women are taking part in VISTA 2011, which is notably low considering Italy has a total of 528 participants. Most of these women work in administration and customer service, however as a Repair Technician Sara is a notable exception. “The first challenge is to be taken under consideration when you are looking for work in a male-dominated environment. Than you have to be accepted among colleagues, and after that everything becomes easier,” says Sara. “VISTA is a wonderful way to overcome these challenges. It offers the opportunity to learn from colleagues with different experiences and different job roles, while at the same time it helps to reinforce my self esteem and feel part of a group.”

Debora and Sara come from completely different markets on two completely different continents, however they both appreciate the support they’ve received from Volvo, indicating that the company’s efforts to encourage diversity really is global.

“In my opinion Volvo is doing their best to help with integration,” says Sara. “Volvo takes diversity seriously and I am an example of this. In Sweden the culture is even more advanced than Italy and this is why you find more female drivers and technicians in Nordic countries.”

“I believe the effort is being made to encourage women to participate in VISTA however the crucial area is the day-to-day operation in the dealerships and workshops,” says Debora. “If women are not employed in conventional male jobs, then regardless of what effort is made by VISTA, there will be no women around to encourage.”

As increasing numbers of women continue to take part in VISTA, and excel such as Debora Rocco has done, prejudice and misgivings about a women’s place in the workshop are being proved wrong. “I would certainly encourage other women to get involved with VISTA,” says Sara Landino. “Accept the challenge because with VISTA we have the opportunity to prove our ability in a open field where anybody can give their best.”