VISTA 2011 saw more participants than ever before – it also saw the debut of As Panteras: VISTA’s the first ever all-female team.
Alessandra Galvao, an administration analysist at Vocal Campinas in Brazil, was immediately intrigued when she first heard about VISTA. A global competition where she could test her skills against colleagues from all over the world was an opportunity too good to pass by. But it wasn’t long before she discovered that being one of the few women in a male-dominated industry was going to make things harder.
“When the enrolment for VISTA 2011 began, there was a meeting at Vocal Campinas and all the teams were formed, only by men,” recalls Alessandra. “I was very interested in participating and tried to learn more about the enrolment process, and that’s when I encountered the first obstacle: I was told that all the teams were closed and there wasn’t room for any further participants.”
Once again it appeared that VISTA would be an all-male affair. However Alessandra refused to accept this and pursued the issue with her dealership’s VISTA leader. It soon emerged that she wasn’t alone and that a number of other women had also unsuccessfully tried to take part. Eventually room was made to allow one more team, and so Alessandra joined up with her colleagues Aidana Beccheri de Carvalho, Evelin Jacqueline Fiorili and Lais Tanner de Almeida Silveira to form As Panteras – The Panthers.
Despite having to fight to be included, As Panteras successfully completed all three preliminary rounds of VISTA, finishing an impressive 8th out of the 33 teams from Vocal Campinas. Their percentage of correct answers, 72%, is well above both the Brazilian and Latin American averages, and they have proved beyond doubt that being women is no impediment to being a successful VISTA team.
“We were motivated by the challenge of competing in a competition that so far has been mostly dominated by men,” says Evelin, who works in parts sales. “Of course everybody wants to win. But for us it tastes even sweeter because it proves that women are not only true competitors, but also like trucks and know them very well.”
Like the truck industry itself, VISTA has traditionally been a male dominated event. Reactions to As Panteras, who adopted their name from the Brazilian title for Charlie’s Angles, have ranged from dismissive to enthusiastic. “Many people looked at our participation differently. We were considered easy opponents. We weren’t a ‘real threat’ and were just in it to make up the numbers,” says Alessandra. “But this perception has changed.”
In contrast the support from VISTA organisers and Volvo Trucks has been tremendous. “We’re only participating in VISTA because our dealership’s VISTA leader has strongly supported and encouraged us,” says Aidana, administration assistant. “Volvo Trucks has also been very supportive. Ever since they heard about our enrolment, they have been motivating us more and more to reach the final!”
While As Panteras just fell short of making the semi-finals, they have achieved their initial aim of earning respect and proving they could be fierce competitors. Their biggest achievement will be the encouragement they’ve given to many more women in Brazil and the rest of the world to consider participating in VISTA 2013. “Each day we see more women playing meaningful roles in society, which shows that having the will is all it takes,” says Alessandra. “No challenge, no matter how hard, is exclusively for men.” They might be the first all-female team in VISTA’s history, but their success means they are unlikely to be the last.