Inspiring women of the Toyota family: Julie, Emma, Magdalena and Mari

Women's History Month

Toyota (GB) is widely recognised for its ongoing commitment to equality and is proud to celebrate the inspirational activities and accomplishments of women within the many sectors of our corporate family. We value initiatives such as Women’s History Month, which provides a global call to action for industries to create inclusive work environments that generate a sense of belonging, value and empowerment among women of all ages.

Such equality is much more than an annual, month-long endeavour for Toyota; it is a mind set that permeates our entire business structure. And we thought the best way to illustrate this was to showcase the inspiring voices of individuals from various sectors of our family. Through candid commentaries and engaging videos we wanted to shed light on their journeys and perspectives, and reveal how they have felt supported over the years as women within the automotive industry.

Women’s History Month: inspirational Toyota family voices

Women's History Month

Julie Viljoen, aftersales performance manager, Toyota (GB)

“This is my 21st year in the automotive sector. During that time I have covered almost every aftersales role from apprentice service advisor to aftersales director, experienced both volume and luxury brands, and been employed by multiple franchises and dealerships. But I have never felt as supported in my role as I have since joining Toyota (GB) five months ago.

“As a woman you can face many prejudices in the motor trade, especially within aftersales. Previously I’ve been told that because I’m not a technician I cannot understand technical details, or that customers would prefer a man to talk to them. I’ve even been asked at job interviews whether I have any plans to have children in the future, and if I have any dependents. It seemed that even the thought of being both a mother and career woman was an impossibility.

“As I’ve moved through the industry, I have always worked very hard, long hours and have done my best to go above and beyond for my employers, while always trying to put my team members’ work/life balance and mental health first. Only now do I feel like the same is being done for me.

“Even in my very first discussions with colleagues at Toyota, I knew this was the company I hoped to work for for the rest of my career, which I hope will be another 25 years. At no point did anyone judge me for being a mum; in fact, I felt comfortable to raise the subject of my daughter in the first interview.

“It’s fantastic to feel that you can still be a top performer in your career without any detriment to your quality as a mum. I will be forever grateful to the Toyota (GB) team for providing me with this wonderful opportunity and structure that allows me to thrive inside and outside of work.”

Emma Turner, weld shop engineer, Toyota Motor Manufacturing (UK)

“I joined Toyota Motor Manufacturing (UK) in 2020 at the height of the pandemic. I was the first female engineer within the welding department and quickly found out that I was one of only a handful of women working in this area of the Burnaston factory.

Women's History Month

“Initially, I struggled to be in an environment where I felt that I could be treated differently for being a young woman. I was thrown in at the deep end by having to lead projects and take ownership of equipment. I also found it hard to lead for fear of being called bossy and struggled to open up to people about my difficulties as I thought they would just think I was being emotional.

“It was only when I finally shared my feelings with my direct colleagues that I really started to feel part of the team. I felt included within the department and began to appreciate the differences between myself and my colleagues. They supported me through challenges and gave me confidence to open up more. I now know that I am a valued and important part of a diverse team – all thanks to the allyship of those around me.”

Magdalena Mieszkowska, human resources business partner, Toyota Financial Services

Women's History Month

“My name is Magda and I have been working for Toyota Financial Services for almost a year in a team that cares for the regions of Europe and Africa. I moved permanently to the UK almost two years ago, and as this is my first employment since leaving my home country of Poland my story is about entering a new country’s labour market and culture – as well as working with a new language – at the age of 44.

“I have worked for several companies before Toyota but this was the first time I received such great support from the beginning. My manager spent a lot of time teaching me the specifics of the role and what we do as a regional function. I felt I that I had space to learn and was offered great support from the team. Everyone shared information and helped me whenever I needed assistance with different topics.

“One of my biggest challenges was the language itself. I had used English in work for many years and felt that I was reasonably fluent, but that was to communicate with other nationalities rather than native English speakers. So on my first day of work at Toyota (GB) I had the feeling that I didn’t understand most of the conversations. Later on, I also experienced situations where I felt that I wasn’t really fluent in understanding or speaking. It definitely had a big impact on my self-confidence. That has changed a lot now, but I needed time to get used to the pace of speaking.

“One more thing to add to this story is the great support I received from the director of our team, who was very open to flexible work time arrangements when I had to travel to Poland to handle family matters. Overall, I want to underline the Toyota culture of genuine inclusiveness and a super-friendly and helpful team spirit.”

Mari Ward, principal specialist, Toyota Motor Manufacturing (UK)

“I joined Toyota Motor Manufacturing (UK) eleven years ago as one of the few locally employed Japanese members. Speaking both Japanese and English, I have been involved in supporting roles for projects and tasks with Japanese colleagues in the UK and abroad.

“While many of these projects are important and necessary, I often felt that I was defined my my language, nationality and gender. I longed to expand my horizons beyond what I was doing at the time.

“So when an opportunity came up for a leading role in new business projects, I decided to apply. Despite some concerns about the inconvenience my colleagues might experience as a result of the move, both divisions have been extremely supportive in my transition. Everyone made this a very positive experience for me, and I am very grateful to them.

“It is great that Toyota offers such opportunities to experience many areas of the business. If anyone feels that they want a change, don’t limit yourself; speak up. There are opportunities out there, and I’ve discovered that the company will support your aspirations.”

Recruitment at Toyota

Based on these real-life Women’s History Month experiences, have you been inspired to apply to work for Toyota and begin your own inclusive story? The following companies are key members of the Toyota family within the UK. Click on each company name to be taken to the home page of its official website.

Additional articles within our Women’s History Month series:

Learn more: How Toyota is contributing to International Women’s Day 2024

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