Paving Her Path in a Male-Dominated Industry

Teresa Spenser-Higgs

In the bustling world of the automotive industry, Teresa Spenser-Higgs stands tall as a beacon of inspiration, defying stereotypes and carving her unique path. As the co-owner of D&T Servicing and a woman with 23 years of experience in this male-dominated field, she exemplifies the skills, determination, and emotional intelligence necessary to excel.

Teresa wears many hats in her role at D&T Servicing, taking on responsibilities that range from front-of-house tasks to HR management and bookkeeping. Her journey is a testament to the fact that women can excel in various roles, even in industries traditionally dominated by men. “I’m responsible for everything other than repairing the cars,” she explains with pride.

Her journey in the automotive world began 23 years ago, and since then, Teresa has not only become a respected business owner but has also taken on significant roles in industry associations like the Retail Motor Industry Organisation (RMI) where she is Chairperson of the Eastern Cape Region and Vice Chairperson of the Motor Industry Workshop Association (MIWA).   She also sits  on the Board of Directors for RMI, on the Labour Exec Committee for the RMI,  and is a Motor Industry Bargaining Council (MIBCO) Principal and merSETA Rep for Eastern Cape.

Despite lacking tertiary degrees and encouraged by her male counterparts, Teresa discovered that her unique viewpoint and years of experience brought invaluable contributions to the table.

Pieter Niemand, MIWA national director says Teresa has an unconventional approach to learning and growth. She draws inspiration from every person she encounters, believing that there is something to learn from everyone, even in negative experiences. “Her humility and open-mindedness have allowed her to continuously evolve as a person and a leader in the industry,” he says,

As a representative of RMI, Teresa is passionate about empowering women within the automotive industry. She advocates for increased soft skill training for support and admin staff, recognising that education is key to fostering inclusivity and diversity. “We develop our technical staff, but we seem to overlook our support staff,” she points out, emphasising the importance of creating opportunities for all.

One of the successful initiatives she has helped initiative and drive is MIWA’s women-centric workshops. These workshops aim to equip women with basic ‘first aid’ knowledge for cars, emergency handling tips, and guidance on choosing a workshop. Teresa believes that women should feel just as comfortable in automotive workshops as they do in any other environment. By facilitating these workshops, she witnesses the joy and empowerment that women experience as they gain insights into the mechanics of cars.

Looking ahead, Teresa envisions a brighter future for women in the automotive industry. She recognises women’s innate qualities, like their methodical approach and attention to detail, as assets that make them ideally suited for the technical aspects of the motor industry. But she also believes there are endless opportunities for women to excel in other areas.

Her aspiration is to see more women in the industry pursuing tertiary qualifications and accessing affordable training opportunities. Teresa’s dream is to work towards creating these opportunities if they don’t exist yet, thereby driving a positive transformation in the industry.  She is a firm believer of “Being the change you want to see”  and her journey certainly exemplifies the impact one person can make when they work towards making things better.

“Teresa is a remarkable woman whose journey in the automotive industry is nothing short of inspiring. With passion, determination, and a commitment to growth, she challenges norms and creates a supportive space for women in the field. Her story serves as a guiding light for aspiring women in the industry, showing that with courage, hard work, and an open mind, dreams can indeed come true,” concludes Niemand.


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