Honda Alice is a welcome difference

Alice and her father Paul Brayley

Brayley Honda car dealership in Hemel Hempstead clearly values the female purse and is doing something about this with a workforce comprising 30% who are women.

Now you might think (like me) that a ratio of 70:30 is still overly male skewed when c80% of all household purchases are made by women but this is the retail motor industry where, according to the Equal Opportunities Commission, women account for less than 10% of the UK workforce. That’s a shocking statistic with so many customer facing roles ideal for  women like Alice, in the photo.

23-year-old Alice Brayley has turned her back on a career in teaching to join her father’s franchised dealership Honda Brayley in Hemel Hempstead. Despite a degree in sociology she chose to join the motor trade following in father’s footsteps. Starting as a sales administrator Alice hopes to move into a management role soon, given the opportunity, once she completes the manufacturer’s management development programme at the Honda Institute in Slough.

The reasons that many women don’t rush to get jobs in the retail motor industry like Alice or to do business with the motor industry as customers aren’t at all complicated. When it comes to buying cars and garage services too many of us are wary shoppers, intimidated by the ‘too blokey’ atmosphere in workshops and showrooms. So imagine what it’s like for young female staff who don’t have Alice’s family business advantages…

As customers, many females worry about being overcharged, patronised and sold things we don’t need. So much so we often feel distinctly ill at ease, take a man with us for support and would prefer to go almost anywhere else. And so we do.

Yet the business case for being a female friendly garage or showroom in her mind is all to do with competitive advantage and word of mouth. Get it right for women and we’ll come more often and tell our friends. This is even more important for businesses selling fleet cars, apparently, where according to the latest RAC Report on Motoring, eight out of ten company cars are chosen by a female. Surely female staff like Alice are better placed than many men to understand what women want and to appreciate why we should get it?

Oh that more manufacturers, dealership and garage groups would recognise the need to achieve a 50:50 gender balance at the very top of their business. The problem is that too few talented females are determined to fight their way to the top in an industry when there are more female friendly industries for us to enjoy and succeed in.

What is needed in virtually all cases is an industry commitment first and foremost and then an individual Board willingness to make the retail motor industry a genuinely more female friendly one. Starting with female Directors including NEDs bringing functional expertise rather than motor industry thinking which is often inclined towards the status quo. And then to make the same progress at senior and then junior management levels.

Until a genuinely female friendly company culture can be seen and felt throughout the retail motor industry, there seems little point encouraging and feeding new female talent in through the front door when they then come up against the same old male dominated status quo and first floor ceiling…


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