I run FOXY Lady Drivers Club and if the motor industry was more female friendly in the first place I doubt we’d exist as it was borne out of our daughter’s bad garage experience quite a while ago now!
Nowadays things have moved on for FOXY and yet the industry still needs many more women in it to make it ‘seem’ a more female friendly place for future employees and customers alike.
I use the word ‘seem’ because a lot of the female apprehension I encounter is stereotypical, out of date and there are many female friendly employers who are harnessing the advantages of having women in their workforce. Most of these are in front of house customer service and sales roles where our natural people skills can come to the fore.
Sadly, as a result of this ‘no go’ perception, which is often influenced by out of date parents I hasten to add, too many young women are missing out on some really exciting career opportunities in an industry that is crying out for them; even if it doesn’t realise it or know how to go about recruiting us.
This is particularly bad news for the industry of course because female graduates are outperforming their male counterparts in many disciplines but they are less interested in (or knowledgeable about) motor industry careers.
Start at the top
Yes we need to start by recruiting more Women Board Directors at the top of the motor industry in the male dominated boardrooms of vehicle manufacturers and dealership groups.
Knowing that there are now more women drivers than male drivers on US roads (how many Board Chairman realise this I wonder?) and that the UK will likely follow suit, it’s about time that more UK Boards realised that a male-led agenda doesn’t make them a female friendly employer and that female shoppers are increasingly favouring businesses that clearly understand and meet their needs.
Getting it right for females is therefore a HUGE business opportunity and should surely be a strategic item on all Board agendas; especially knowing the shift to girl power and her financial influence on others is happening during their watch.
The message for female students
The industry needs to get its message out to young women at grass root levels as well. Companies like Jaguar Land Rover’s ‘Inspiring Tomorrow’s Engineers: Young Women in the Know’ course are leading the field here for sound commercial reasons. Women don’t have to get their hands dirty or wear overalls although how else would female engineers, like those in the photo, start their career other than by a hands on induction programme?
And well run garages don’t have to be dirty although far too many still are grubby places in my experience. Having said that I’ve been encouraged by many of the immaculate FOXY Lady Approved accident repair centres I’ve visited recently.
Other than this, all businesses should look at their female friendly employer credentials and have these added to their recruitment campaigns to give them women appeal. Sadly this will be a very short list for most.
Barriers to female appeal
We have women running motor racing teams, excellent but rare apprenticeship schemes for females, women heading up motor industry associations, running their own garages, car dealerships, car parts and leasing companies and so on. But why are we still seen as the exception and not the norm I wonder?
Why, for example, aren’t there more women in car showrooms selling us cars? And accompanying women on test drives. I’m told it’s an antisocial job and women don’t want to do the hours. But nobody asks the ‘right’ women about the hours they could work, even if these are shorter shifts. Or gives them the chance to show what they can do.
I say the ‘right’ women because all too often I come across females who have been employed for their looks rather than their work ethic. I say this with sincere apologies to all those good looking, hard working and ambitious females out there – I am sure they understand the point I am making which is that the ‘wrong’ female employees simply reinforce the stereotypical perception too many men have of us on the shop floor to begin with. You must employ the RIGHT females and they must always be the BEST recruits even if they lack industry experience and need training.
Sadly the industry has been such a male stronghold for so long that too many men can’t imagine there might be a different/better way to do their business. Which of course is likely given an open rather than closed mindset.
Are you a female friendly employer?
Finally, and to make my point crystal clear in case I haven’t been so far ;)… I recall a recent Twitter exchange with a Chairman of a leading dealership group who was too busy to see me but asked me to meet two of his senior female management colleagues.
I duly discussed our FOXY Lady Approved female friendly scheme with them to be told, in confidence, that they could not endorse that business as a female friendly one. So the Chairman still thinks his business is a female friendly one but it clearly isn’t and sadly his senior management ladies don’t feel able to tell him this…
I suspect they aren’t the only leading Group to have this dilemma, or for female staff to feel they can only admit this to an outsider, in strict confidence.
My LinkedIn profile
PS To find out more about the many career opportunities in the motor industry I recommend the Autocity website .
To find out about the many apprenticeships in the motor industry I suggest you start with the IMI’s programme.