Category Archives: women in the motor industry

Ford inspires and rewards female engineering talent

Last month’s Perkins Review, published earlier this month, revealed that the UK has the lowest proportion of women engineering professionals in Europe, at under 10 per cent. And bearing in mind that young UK females are outperforming males at GCSE level in STEM subjects it’s clear that between school and career there is a female disconnect and UK engineering businesses could be missing out on half in not more of the most capable talent with a view to the future.

This is something that Ford recognised and started to tackle back in 2011 as part of their Blue Oval sponsorship programme, awarding 100 undergraduate students scholarships of £10,000 each, paid over a three year period. Of the initial 2012 group, 25 per cent were female scholars, and Ford is now supporting a targeted rise in female participation to 50 per cent as well as committing to a further 10 Blue Oval Scholarships a year in the longer term.

Ford-WIEimage

Taken in front of the Houses of Parliament after a meeting about this, the photo is of Barb Samardzich (centre), Ford of Europe Chief Operating Officer, current Blue Oval Scholar, Sophie Vanderspar (right), Mechanical Engineering Undergraduate at University of Southampton, and former Ford Craft Apprentice, Lauren Robinson (left), who is now a full-time Ford employee.

Keen supporter Business Secretary Vince Cable said: “Engineering has a vital role to play in the future of British industry. But with just one in ten engineers being women, we are only tapping into a fraction of the talent available. During Engineering Week earlier this month, we announced £49 million of new money to address skills shortages in engineering. Working with companies like Ford who have a great record in the recruitment and long-term retention of women, we can inspire young women to consider a career in this growing industry and ensure they are properly represented in the workforce.”

This programme is jointly funded by Ford’s corporate foundation, the Ford Motor Company Fund and fits within Ford’s global initiative called “Operation Better World” creating measurable outcomes to do with education (focusing on STEM subjects), car safety, community needs and sustainability.

To find out more about Ford’s Blue Oval Scholarships visit http://www.ford.co.uk/experience-ford/AboutFord/Scholarships

The motor industry needs MORE WOMEN

WeNeedYouI 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

beale1Yes 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

JLR_0525The 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.

FOXY

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.

The motor industry isn’t just for boys

Jaguar Land Rover is offering female students interested in engineering, technology and manufacturing careers a unique insight into the world of work at the UK’s largest luxury automotive manufacturer.

The ‘Inspiring Tomorrow’s Engineers: Young Women in the Know’ course has been developed in partnership with Birmingham Metropolitan College to change outdated perceptions of engineering to encourage more young women to consider engineering and manufacturing careers.

The 28 female students, aged 16-18, are participating in a week-long programme of events this week at Jaguar Land Rover’s manufacturing, design and engineering sites in Gaydon, Whitley, Solihull and Castle Bromwich. They will meet other female apprentices, graduates, engineers and managers to find out about their education and career histories and will spend a day on work experience at the Solihull plant. They will also find out about Jaguar Land Rover’s apprentice and graduate schemes and participate in workshops on job applications, assessment centres and interview techniques.

Bob Joyce, Jaguar Land Rover Engineering Director, said: “Jaguar Land Rover offers a wide range of education programmes with the aim of getting young people excited about engineering and crucially, to encourage them to make the right subject choices at GCSE-level and beyond. The ‘Young Women In The Know’ course has been developed to encourage female students to consider engineering careers and we hope some of the students on the course today will join Jaguar Land Rover as engineers in the future.”

Danella Bagnall, Project Planning and Integration Director at Jaguar Land Rover, added: “I started my career as an apprentice 25 years ago which was a great way of continuing education, developing skills, and getting into industry.”

“I am now a senior engineering manager which demonstrates the excellent career progression opportunities available to women in a modern engineering-led business like Jaguar Land Rover.”

“It is a very exciting time to join our business. We are investing more than £2 billion a year in research and development and we need talented young people to deliver new technologies, new applications, new approaches and new ideas. I would thoroughly recommend a career in engineering to girls and hope this programme inspires lots more women to become engineers.”

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We’d like to see more initiatives of this kind in the motor industry. This is such a great way to raise awareness levels about the range of exciting careers on offer for girls. Not just for girls to read about of course but also for teachers, career advisers and ambitious parents, many of whom seem to retain old-fashioned ideas about this industry which need challenging and updating.

To prove my point, I suggest you visit the AutoCity careers website and the World of Work and listen to over 150 people about their careers. There is a real need for more women at all levels (starting in the Boardroom I must say) to reflect and cater for the customer service, needs and expectations of the customers that influence the majority of motor industry sales ie women. This is a serious opportunity and those employers that are seen to be female friendly ahead of others are likely to attract the creme de la creme of STEM graduates who are increasingly women.

FOXY

MBA, FCIM, Chartered Marketer and a proud Member of the Institute of the Motor Industry (MIMI) keen to see more fellow females in future!

Isabel’s MG Mission

Isabel Fletcher has joined MG as an apprentice and is a self-declared woman on a mission.

The 16-year-old former Wolverhampton schoolgirl is determined to become an ambassador for women as she carves out a career at MG Motor UK, the Birmingham-based car maker.

“I’m determined to do well and I’m absolutely delighted to have been selected as the first female apprentice at MG for many years. I’m going to be an ambassador for women and aim to prove that women can do well in the automotive business.”

Isabel gained 12 GCSEs at St Peter’s Collegiate School, including an A* in Engineering and an A in Business Studies. She won four distinctions in her BTEC Engineering qualification and speaks Spanish.

She will now study for an NVQ in Sales & Marketing on a day release course at Bournville College as part of her apprenticeship at MG. She is starting her training at MG with a three month spell in Business Services before moving on to work in all aspects of the business.

Away from work, Isabel is a keen swimmer, is involved with voluntary work at All Saints’ Church, Wolverhampton and is a .22 rifle markswoman with ambitions to join the West Midlands shooting squad. Watch out guys!

Well done Isabel. Time permitting, I suggest you now:

1 Join the Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI) – I’ll happily propose you for AffIMI status.
2 Add your voice to FOXY’s and let’s get the message out about exciting motor industry careers to females in future.

FOXY Choice Female Business Ambassador network
FOXY Choice identifies Female Business Ambassadors who represent the best interests of women customers.
We’ll be watching your career with great interest and think MG has made a very foxy female choice.

FOXY

PS You can read more about FOXY Choice’s Female Business Ambassador network and exciting career opportunities for Women in the Motor Industry.

Dragons Den Devey and Diversity

Last night Dragons Den’s Hilary Devey aired some fascinating gender issues in a BBC programme called ‘Women At The Top’

What impressed me most was that she started out thinking that the status quo was a female choice but she soon changed her mind faced with clear evidence that a 50:50 gender balance (in her own company) was more profitable for the employer and probably a happier place to work. All this and to be told by gender consultant Avivah Wittenberg-Cox that she’d used her female strengths to benefit her business running her ship her way or else!

Of course real life isn’t an ideal world in any male dominated industry like Hilary’s logistics one and we’re much the same in the motor industry. A few feisty females in top Board positions but we’d probably struggle to make 5% let alone 50% as an industry average for Female Board Directors overall. Having said that I do think things are getting better in a few female friendly working environments, especially at middle management and in customer service roles.

Queen Bee by nature or nurture?

Undoubtedly Hilary is a Queen Bee in her business and industry. She knows she has brought fame and fortune to her business by virtue of her gender and talents but she doesn’t promote that when advertising for staff. I think she’ll change this now because if she would like to recruit the best person for the job, this means including females, and women like to see ‘women like them’ (or women to aspire to be) in their employer of choice. This is a lesson other male dominated businesses should address where they can, as well as promoting other female friendly credentials to potential recruits.

It isn’t good enough in my book for high flying females in male dominated industries to say ‘I haven’t found any discrimination in my career’ when it’s obvious that it exists all around them when they look. What they should be asking themselves is ‘what have I done to make this business a more female friendly place for others to follow in my wake?’

The way I see it, female Board members, no matter the industry they work in, need to represent the best interests of their customers (a likely 50:50 male:female split) and to get customer services right they must address their needs and expectations. This often means influencing the culture of a business from within especially if it is such a male dominated one as in the motor industry. Clearly the business case suggests that diversity needs to be a top level strategic objective for Boards; I have yet to find it to be so in the motor industry.

Is it worth the journey to the top?

Women who read this and who work in a naturally female friendly industry like fashion, health and beauty, won’t get this or appreciate the different business culture in a male dominated industry. This is where women have to fight to get to the top, often by being more blokey than the men they are competing with. But they shouldn’t have to do either; their talents should be nurtured, recognised and appreciated. But nurturing, recognition and appreciation aren’t natural male jargon whereas ‘demanding’, ‘relentless’ and ‘gravitas’ are the more likely terminology, as the financial recruitment adverts discussed in the programme illustrated. The ideal recruit clearly was a man!

But when she finally gets to her Board Nirvana, that’s when the fun and games can start, especially if she is the first female there. She doesn’t think like a man and if she’s there to be make up the numbers she won’t be listened to when she has a different point of view. In such instances she won’t last the course and she’ll consider herself a failure whereas it probably isn’t her fault. And the male status quo merchants will nod wisely because they always knew a man would have done a better job!

The female choice

It’s not a one sided game of course. Women can have babies and they can have a career. Yes they can have both and it can be done. But it shouldn’t be at the expense of the employer.

Hilary returned to work soon after having her son and I did too after 6 weeks. Needs dictated we both did. Neither son has suffered I’m sure but we both probably wish we could have spent longer in that unusual and special state of motherly euphoria.

But we’re talking about real life and I believe that some women can be more honest with their employers after the birth of their child, knowing how generous maternity and paternity leave is today. I’d like to see those that plan to return to work for a SME appreciate the sacrifice that employers make to keep their job open for them. This is a costly exercise but worth it in the end for them both of course. Those that can resume some sort of work at an earlier stage, using technology as I did, should start to do so if only to show an employer that she is doing her best to say thank you – and for having chosen a family AND a career. Those that have no intention of returning to work after the child’s birth do their gender a disservice by waiting until the last moment to let their employer down.

That’s when childcaring Mums (or Dads but there are fewer of them) have to settle for a job not a career; like the 4 out of 10 Mums with degrees who accept lower jobs than they are capable of.

For me the star of the show was Proctor & Gamble who showed that a huge organisation could turn its culture around in ten years, making it the female friendly employer it undoubtedly is today. Easier for big companies than small said Sir Stuart Rose (ex of M&S) but I can’t help thinking that having a committed female at Board level, with a mandate to achieve this in the UK, was a key factor in leading this change.

What next?

I hope leading luminaries in the motor industry were watching this programme and took it seriously.

Next week Hilary looks at ways to make businesses, including her own, more female friendly including the matter of whether to impose quotas to get to the magic 50:50 formula.

Happily the business case is clear but when the Mum at Ford spoke about feeling guilty when she left work at 5pm for family reasons (and then worked c3 hours that evening after her children went to bed) I can’t help thinking that the way to retain the best staff has to do with a more flexible outlook towards technology.

But either way, let’s embrace diversity everywhere in British business, making a start at Board level in the many male dominated industries that remain, including the UK’s motor industry. We need the improved ROI that women can bring.

FOXY