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Appointment of first female CEO and President – Cummins Inc. is serious about transformation

Jennifer Rumsey is the seventh CEO and first woman to lead Cummins since it was founded in 1919

The appointment of Jennifer Rumsey as President and CEO of Cummins, the seventh CEO and first woman to lead the company since it was founded in 1919, is a beacon of the strides that the global power leader has made in terms of diversity and inclusion. “Our values speak to diversity, equity, and inclusion. It really includes our differences in decision-making as a competitive advantage. If I think about then and now, the principle rings true today,” says Avril Campher, Transformation Leader for South Africa.

Avril Campher, Transformation Leader for South Africa, Cummins.

With Women’s Day being celebrated on 9 August under the theme of ‘Generation Equality: Realising Women’s Rights for an Equal Future’, Avril highlights former CEO J. Irwin Miller’s historic statement from 1983: “Character, ability and intelligence are not concentrated in one sex over the other, nor in persons with certain accents or in certain races or in persons holding degrees from some universities over others.”

Avril comments: “We understand that diversity and inclusion is about recognising and valuing our differences and channelling those differences for the benefit of everyone in addition to the benefit of the organisation. It is about reflecting and understanding the communities in which we operate as a business. It is also about sincerely valuing the perspective and experiences of everyone, regardless of their differences. From a global perspective, it allows us to attract and retain talent. For now, it is really about ensuring we increase the representation of females within the organisation.”

Joining Cummins in 1995 as a personal assistant to a regional office of five to seven employees, Avril then progressed to marketing assistant and manager role, whereafter she found her true calling in corporate responsibility. “Never once did I know I would grow to the point where I am right now.” Avril says this opened her eyes to the plight of the local communities in which Cummins operates, and the radical difference it can make in terms of empowerment and upliftment.

“There are seeds of greatness in everyone. If you are just given the opportunity to plant those seeds and allow them to grow, you can. When I think of my journey at Cummins, it has been exactly that. Cummins has given me the platform to grow, and they have watered those seeds. I cannot say I have reached a point of harvesting, as it is an ongoing journey,” says Avril.

Another long-time employee at Cummins is Simi Vallabh, Business Transformation Project Manager, Distribution Business, who marks her 20-year anniversary at the company on 5 August. Simi started out as a credit controller at the Johannesburg branch, and today works with multiple global teams as a senior project leader.”

Simi Vallabh, Business Transformation Project Manager, Distribution Business, Cummins.

Simi notes that female leaders tend to be collaborative, inclusive, empathetic, and consultative, which is to the benefit of any company. Cummins has created multiple platforms to encourage all female employees to build confidence, define goals, and promote a higher self-esteem which, in turn, allows them to dream big and achieve their goals.

“This also gives us the inner strength to go through hurdles with an open mind,” says Simi. Women have the freedom to apply for any role and can also partake in job shadowing. In addition, the Cummins Learning Centre and its technical training colleges allow anyone to take engine familiarisation courses, for example. “I believe the biggest challenge we face today is the fear of change, especially where new technology is concerned,” notes Simi, pointing to the latest trend of robotic process automation.

She adds: “Create and own your destiny. My growth and development journey has been a continuous development cycle. I set goals and ensure I meet them within the timeline and then set new goals and prepare to achieve those. Only you can design your career. My goal has never been to just be ambitious and strive for promotions; it has been about learning new skills and gaining knowledge in a multitude of different areas within Cummins.”

Payroll Manager Eunice L. Segage highlights that Cummins sponsors over 100 employee resource groups to create the right environment for success by promoting diversity and inclusion and lending their unique perspectives to identify opportunities to enhance business success. These groups are open to all employees and are organised around various elements of diversity such as race, ethnicity, country of birth, individuals with disabilities, veterans, and new employees. The groups also impart important cultural and business environment information.

Eunice Segage, Payroll Manager, Cummins.

Eunice says diversity and inclusion are important from the point of view of a place of employment and in day-to-day life. “Not only am I a woman, but I also strongly value different backgrounds, perspectives, and ways of thinking.” She says it is important to learn about your colleagues and what makes them who they are so as to function more cohesively as a team.

“This is something you see every day at Cummins: Different people from all walks of life, all over the globe, all with a different story to tell working together, learning from one another, and respecting one another.” Eunice adds that caring and integrity are also major values. Here Cummins’ ‘Every Employee, Every Community’ programme is a prime example of how the company lives those values. “I love the chance to give back to my community, as driven by the company I work for,” she concludes.

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