25 March 2013

Namibia: More Women Excel At O&L

The call for more female faces in the private sector's management cadre has prompted the Ohlthaver & List Group of Companies to introduce their female executives to a wider audience.

21 years ago in January 1992, Sonja Bartsch started as a modest assistant accountant at O&L Farming, a subsidiary in the extensive O&L stable. Today she is the Group Financial Manager: Operations and Managing Director of Kraatz Steel and Eros Air.

During her career she has been responsible for numerous divisions and has seen the growth and expansion of Midgard, Model Woolworths and Pick 'n Pay.

When thinking back on her career at the Group, Sonja says that one of her biggest highlights included the turn-around of the Retail operations. "On a more personal note, I found the GAP Breakthrough Intensive a highlight - it teaches everyone that people act differently for different reasons - it changes your outlook on everything." Challenges during her career included numerous and she recalls: "One of the funniest challenges I remember was doing stock count at the Rietfontein farm where they had a large pigsty. The runts were familiar with the farm manager and workers only, so when we came to count them and they saw us, they started screaming like mad and running around like crazy - there was just no way that we could count them! We eventually relied on the farm manager's figures."

Sonja, born and bred in Windhoek, holds a University of Pretoria B. Comm (Financial Management) and a B. Comm (Hons) (Financial Management) degree as well as a Master's degree in Business from UNISA.

Asked about getting to the top she says it was not easy. "Yes, it is difficult, but when you think about it, it is actually tremendously rewarding. Anyone working at a senior level, regardless of gender, needs to make sacrifices and it will depend on the individual, how much they are prepared to put in. As a woman you sometimes have to combat prejudices (from men and women) on your ability, but any difficulties should not deter you. Much more important than the difficulty is the reward and to me personally the reward lies in making a difference."

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