Meet Jo-Ann De Wet The First Female Director Of Operations At McDonald’s South Africa

Jo-Ann De Wet

Beyond excellent service, McDonald’s South Africa has a strong sense of employee training and development. We caught up with Jo-Ann De Wet, who started with the corporation as a trainee manager 20 years ago

Jo-Ann began her career with McDonald’s 20 years ago as a trainee manager, washing windows and cleaning the restaurants. Through relationships, training and development, she’s now responsible for overseeing all the restaurant support function departments. Jo-Ann talks us through her journey.

Most people only know McDonald’s as the a fast food franchise. What can you tell us about the internal culture?

At McDonald’s SA, we believe in the growth of our people. Not only do we value them as individuals, but also their growth and the contributions they make to the business. These are quite diverse, considering the cultural, age and gender differences. For us, this drives an inclusive workplace in which everyone in the business can achieve their full potential.

As you’ve climbed the ranks, what have you discovered about yourself?

If I want something, I need a mental framework or vision of what I to achieve. I then surround myself with people who’ll motivate me – be it family members or the my team. Interestingly, in my career I’ve been fortunate enough that I’ve never been restricted by my gender. I’ve never experienced the glass ceiling, but rather the ‘sticky floor’. Elements of fear and self-doubt do creep in, though I’ve learnt to shake them off.

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Why is McDonald’s South Africa a great company to work for?

The business is run on a philosophy of family. Nothing is perfect all of the time, but I know which avenues to use to express a concern or bring a suggestion to the table. A lot of what the company stands for overlaps with my personal value system. I’m passionate about people reaching their full potential.

With a job like yours that requires constant attention, how do you achieve a work-life balance?

I’m married with four boys. Strangely enough, I don’t believe in a work-life balance; I don’t actually think it exists. For me, it’s about maintaining harmony. It’s about not having any internal conflict in my role at any time. I firmly believe in quality versus quantity.

What would you tell your 25-year-old self?

Stay the course and recognise the gift of positive discomfort. You’ll soon find out why.

What do you think is the biggest misconception about black women in leadership roles?

The biggest misconception is that women of colour in senior positions are there because of affirmative action and not their ability. This is a myth: men and women are equally skilled and I don’t believe that someone’s gender defines their potential.

How can a strong black woman be a leader in both her workplace and at home?

You have to determine what success means for yourself. As much as we’re influenced by our families, at the end of the day, it’s about our own capabilities. Black women shouldn’t be pressurised to follow what used to be a traditional life cycle – study, work, get married, have children. You have to set your own course.

What’s the one thing that’s kept you going during the difficult times?

Support from my family has always kept me going. They believe in me when I doubt myself. Often, my sons and husband have encouraged me to complete a task that I believed I couldn’t. It also helps when your values and those of your company overlap.


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