Women's Month Series

Celebrating female leadership of social entrepreneurs within YSB's portfolio: Sandra Nalli

March 16, 2023

Sandra Nalli  

Sandra Nalli is the founder and CEO of Escola do Mecânico or the Mechanical School which is based in Sao Paolo, Brazil where they provide practical upskilling in the field of automotive repair and mechanics. 

She says, “I founded Escola do Mecânico in March 2011 with the aim of offering professional training to the automotive segment. With the Adote Um Aluno and #EmpregaMecânico project, we have already trained more than 2000 professionals and sent them to the market. In mid-2014, I started the franchise project for Escola do Mecânico, and in 2015 the Project was implemented.” By 2019, Escola do Mecânico ended the year with 30 units in operation.

1. We are having a conversation about women leaders in 2023 and there are still questions about whether women can "have it all" - career - family - life - or if they have to make hard trade offs. What is one of the most significant barriers to womens' leadership today? (Any personal experience or illustration you feel comfortable sharing would be great here.)

I would say that the biggest challenge for women in leadership positions, as well as women entrepreneurs, is prejudice. Prejudice is part of a cultural model in which we are all embedded, and it makes sense to say that over the years, there have been several movements for women's empowerment and gender equality. 

 

However, even with these movements, women still need to prove themselves more because there is a lack of credibility for women in leadership positions and entrepreneurship. Often, women need to deliver more efficient and effective results than men to prove their competence. 

Another barrier is that women have less access to credit. Large funds invest less in companies founded by women, especially here in Brazil.

 

I would say that these were significant challenges for me, as I am involved in the predominantly male automotive mechanics industry. I had to prove myself more and often use my competence, courage, and willpower to break into previously male-dominated environments. 

I remember that when I entered this male-dominated industry, I always had to bring a man to negotiate with some suppliers or potential partners, even if he had less knowledge than I did. But in recent years, I have seen a lot of progress, including the presence of women in my sector. So today, I navigate this world with much more ease and without needing male presence to obtain important partnerships or clients. 

 

2. Could you please share an example of what you or your organisation is doing to move the needle on womens' empowerment?

At the mechanic school, we have two major movements. The first one is employability. Today, we provide an application that connects students and unemployed individuals with job vacancies in the automotive repair sector. We do not make any kind of distinction; our goal is to employ both men and women in this segment. 

 

The second major movement is to create the largest community of female mechanics in Brazil. In this community, we provide relevant content for women, both technical and motivational, as well as content for empowerment. We have also brought in some ambassadors who are women that have either been mechanics or currently work as mechanics to share their stories and inspire other women. We have created an ecosystem for them so that they can break down the barriers of fear and insecurity and participate in this automotive repair market, which is still dominated by men. We have noticed a growing increase in job opportunities for women. 

 

3. Let's end with some inspiration! What advice would you give your 21-year-old self...or what advice would your 60+-year-old self give you now?

"At 21, I would tell myself, 'Go with a lot of grit, determination, and positive energy, and enjoy every step of your journey.' As for my 60-year-old self, I would say, 'Plant your legacy in the world, sow your seeds, don't hide your story, and inspire others with what you have built.'"

This article of Sandra Nalli is 1 of 4 that we will be releasing this women's month. Stay tuned for more inspiring stories!

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