Where are all the women in automotive?
Guest Blog By Amanda Holtby, Director and Joint Owner, G3 Remarketing
It’s hard to believe that in 2018 when visiting any car dealership, garage or auction house and, chances are, women staff members will be few and far between. If you do see any female faces, they are more likely to be handling your paperwork than selling you a vehicle or fixing one.
And men still occupy more than 82% of the jobs in the UK motor sector at a time when gender equality is advancing apace – and car ownership among women is increasing twice as fast as men.
Recent statistics from London-based gender diversity consultancy 20-first, also show women currently make up just 17.6% of the UK’s wholesale and retail motor trade workforce and 15.8% of those work in the manufacturing of vehicles. While some other European countries – such as Germany and Italy – rank slightly better, the picture is equally as bleak internationally.
So why is the industry still so male-dominated in 2018?
Perhaps the long-established bias means that it doesn’t occur to women to pursue a career in the motor sector – or it could be that females are not as drawn to the magic of a revving engine as men.
Dealerships may also struggle to attract women to take on a role, as they don’t want to work somewhere where it’s clear they will be the minority – and when they do, they understandably don’t appreciate the inevitable focus on their gender.
The reasons are complex but HR managers in the sector need to be working to redress this situation. For many, gender pay gap reporting may have set the ball rolling, exposing the full reality of their boys’ club payroll.
But how can this change?
A change can already be seen through high-achieving figures like Mary Barra – who pioneered when she took control of General Motor three years ago, becoming the first female chief executive of a major global car manufacturer – and boss of Citroen Linda Jackson.
Although they are still part of the minority, they demonstrate what women can achieve in the automotive market. And, many companies in the sector appear to be starting to realise they are missing out by failing to attract or welcome the female half of the available talent pool, who can offer all manner of expertise and insight.
A lot can be learnt from worthwhile initiatives like the one conducted last summer by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders in conjunction with Autocar Magazine, who are working towards encouraging women into the sector. It saw them push to identify females in the motor industry – shinning a light on the talent that already exists, whilst highlighting how outnumbered they are.
On a similar note, campaigns like the UK Automotive 30% Club – a voluntary group of automotive chief executive officers and managing directors – who want to see 30% of leadership positions in the sector filled by women in 2030. The brand is pushing businesses to succeed by hitting their targets and aiming towards a more gender diverse workforce.
Wider changes in working culture, such as flexible hours, are also helping to attract women into the sector – and all employers should be offering this to ensure they don’t fall behind the rest. Anyone who is a parent – not just women – will specifically seek this benefit when applying for a position, so they know they won’t miss out on the important sports days and parent’s evenings. Gone are the days of men putting bread on the table and women covering all domestic duties – dads and partners need family-friendly working conditions as much as mums.
The wider advancements for gender equality in workplaces, coupled by the examples set by the few pioneers around, and of course the business sense of harnessing female – as well as male – talent, will see the balance finally start to shift in 2019.
It is a contentious issue, but one that’s surely worthy of serious constructive action. So, an active programme of recruitment and other positive messages around bringing more females into the industry, could instigate further change. It is important the sector as a whole comes together to support this well-needed injection of diversity, in order for it to be successful.
Then one day soon, women in automotive – whether fitting tyres or heading up multi-national companies – won’t be so unusual.