What's it like to be a woman working in footwear? Let our fabulous female footwear family give you a first-hand look at what footwear has taught them and what it takes to thrive in a typically male-dominated industry.
In this week's series, meet Roshula. Our team footwear manager who believes that being fair is just as important as being strong.
How long have you been making shoes?
33 years. I’ve been working in a footwear factory since I was 15.
That’s incredible!! How did you start?
I had a passion for footwear because my mom worked in the footwear industry. It was in my nature, I always wanted to work in a factory and footwear manufacturing. I’ve always had the ambition and dream to move higher up the ladder and become a manager. The largest team I’ve managed was 360 workers.
What is your favourite part of the process?
My journey started trimming thread on the line. On my first day, I remember being covered in cotton and thread. Then I moved to the closing room, to becoming a table hand and onward to the shoe room. I’ve worked in pretty much all around and eventually moved into management. I started from the bottom and moved my way all the way up. It was very hard, I was a single mother with three children. It was important for me that they were educated and I’m proud to say they have all matriculated.
Currently, what are you most passionate about in the footwear process?
From the time the job is cut to seeing the finished product. I love seeing the product come to life. Especially at Matsidiso because the process is so manual and hands-on.
What is your favourite Matsiidso shoe and why?
I love the Ausi’s. They are classic and easy to wear, comfy and no laces.
What has making shoes taught you?
You come across all kinds of different people. You get to work with them as a team. It teaches you to be adaptable and flexible to their understanding of the world. Also, it’s a great amount of knowledge to know how the shoe is made and to have an understanding of how complex they are to make. Handmade shoes are done with love and affection, and it takes many hands. If you were to know how difficult it is to make a shoe, you’d never wear them in the rain.
What has it been like working as a woman in a mostly man dominated industry?
Footwear is for both women and men. In the past, it mattered how you carry yourself and there were more gender roles for a specific part of the footwear line. Nowadays, you need to have a lot of experience. That's why it was important for me to start at the very beginning and work my way through each process. If you know what you are doing and have the experience, then you will have the confidence to show somehow the right way to do their work. You have to be firm and strong and to be able to take on challenges. You have to work through the language of the team and know how to speak to them. Trust is everything. When you manage you have to be a very fair person, You have to be there for the workers and the management staff. There is a balance to mediate between the two.
Being a manager also means being a part of the team and getting your hands dirty together. I’m not above jumping in and helping wherever I can. It is a pleasure to be able to help in all areas of the footwear making process.
Thank you so much, Roshula! You are an amazing asset to our team and we are grateful to have you. Thank you for sharing a bit of your journey in footwear.