Women’s Day means different things to different people, and for many hardworking South African career women – and for that matter the entire ‘womens’ month’ - is just ‘business as usual’.

While many organisations have a long way to go in recognising and rewarding women fairly in the workplace, Air Products South Africa is at the forefront of the industrial gas sector in this regard. 

This is the view of Nalanie Naidu, Human Resources (HR) General Manager at Air Products South Africa.

Naidu, who joined the Executive team of Air Products SA towards the end of 2013, does not regard the industrial gas sector as a ‘man’s world’; but rather as a dynamic environment where there is scope for growth and development for any individual with the will to succeed.

“At Air Products South Africa, this recognition is achieved through various techniques, but first and foremost amongst these is an equal rate of pay for the job, and the fair and equal positioning of women within the organisation,” Naidu comments. 

The will to succeed

“My experience of the gas industry is that we have a large group of highly intelligent and loyal people, who are secure in who they are and their capabilities. We see each other as colleagues who work in partnership. While I believe that women do bring certain qualities into the work environment, it really is about the knowledge you bring to your job and how professional you are in performing your role,” she says.

Naidu, who has a legal background and extensive experience in all aspects of HR developed through a career spent in a cross-section of industries, believes that - in many cases - women place limitations on themselves.  Although the industrial and engineering sector is dominated by men, she does not consider it a ‘man’s world. On the contrary, she feels strongly that women in the industrial sector – and the business environment in general - often unwittingly hold themselves back.

Employer of choice

“Air Products is fast becoming an employer of choice, because we really do and strike hard to look after our people. With a more formalised methodology of retention, my aim is to strengthen that approach, but also to create more merit-based differentiation, recognising and rewarding the high performers. Bear in mind that performance is not the ultimate measure, and that the end does not in fact justify the means.  Values-driven performance is our differentiator,” she claimed.

“Implementing change is not always an easy process,” she notes.  “Driving objective measures to identify potential, creating more exciting ways of learning and introducing tools which simplify day to day activities are all quick wins for the company.  Naidu knows that one has to be ‘made of metal’ in order to manage these changes. However, keeping a focus on revenue growth and sustainability of the company takes precedence in the planning of HR investments.”

“It is not difficult to be a woman in the industrial gas industry, as long as you are prepared to partner with your colleagues, know where you are going and remain determined and focused about getting there,” she concludes.