Category Archives: women in the motor industry

Foxy Faye meets female friendly garage employer in Braintree

This thought provoking story reminds us that parts of the motor industry are in urgent need of a radical female friendly makeover to challenge and banish old fashioned views and stereo-typical ‘blokey’ comments about jobs women can and can’t do…

Because the fact is that women can do any job they want to; as well as men and often better than them.

Fortunately there is a happy ending to this story, thanks to Grants SEAT in Braintree and you must forgive a shameless plug here because Grants SEAT is, of course, part of the FOXY Choice approved Female Friendly garage network…

But how many young and talented women like Faye Gates have been put off an exciting career opportunity in the UK motor industry today because of similar misogynistic views that have gone unchallenged and remained entrenched?

This is Faye’s story…

Colchester Institute student Faye Gates was beginning to lose hope of ever finding the apprenticeship she needed to complete her three-year vehicle maintenance course after receiving more than 200 knock-backs from garages.

Reasons for rejection included ‘we don’t employ women in our workshop’, ‘you’ll be too worried you’ll chip your nail varnish’, ‘you’d be better suited to a job on reception’ and ‘we just don’t have the facilities for women.’

But after reading about her plight in the Braintree and Witham Times earlier this year Faye was offered a trial by local car retailer Grants SEAT and, after impressing them in that role, she was taken on full-time as the dealership’s latest apprentice and has since been enrolled on the SEAT Advanced Apprenticeship Programme at the Volkswagen Group’s state-of-the-art National Learning Centre.

And, after finally earning the confidence of a forward-thinking employer, she has regained her ambition and is once again determined to work her way through the ranks to become a SEAT Master Technician.

An excited Faye said: ‘I’ve wanted to be a technician since I was about 14 when I started hanging about with people who were really into their cars but I was beginning to give up hope of ever finding an apprenticeship.’

‘But I sent out so many CV’s and got nowhere and people were often really blatant about the reasons why they didn’t want to hire me. On one occasion I was told by a garage that they had no vacancies only to discover they’d given an apprenticeship to one of my (male) classmates at college a few days later.’

‘It’s absolutely brilliant to be at Grants where they value all their employees and treat everybody equally. There’s just a really nice atmosphere and everyone genuinely gets along. I’m learning loads here and am really enjoying getting to work on all the cars in the range and using all the latest equipment. It’s also brilliant being on the SEAT Advanced Apprenticeship Programme and the facilities they have and the way they teach is just amazing.’

Grants SEAT Managing Director, Darren Williams, said:
‘It  beggars belief to hear some of the comments made to Faye as she tried to pursue her dream career. The reasons people gave for not employing her would have been totally unacceptable decades ago but in this day and age they’re absolutely outrageous. Thankfully though, they’re not representative of the modern motor industry.’

‘We were absolutely delighted to give Faye a shot after reading her story in the Times but giving her a job was no sympathy vote – she earned it. She was really impressive on her trial and since joining the team, her enthusiasm and willingness to learn has really shone through. Now she’s started her training properly on an industry-leading apprenticeship programme I’m sure she has a very bright future.’

Anthony Aldridge, a qualified Technician at Grants SEAT, said: ‘Having Faye join the dealership has been no different to when anyone else comes on board. She’s been a great addition to the team and is getting on really well.’

If any young women are reading this and wondering how they might find a job in the motor industry today I suggest they browse through the database of FOXY Choice female friendly garages and dealerships for starters. Another good place to look for career information and opportunities is the IMI (Institute of the Motor Industry) career website.

And for 1:1 advice, by all means email me direct, Steph Savill via


Why more women make business sense

Why aren’t there more female board members in the UK motor industry? Because if there were, businesses would be more profitable.

Starting with an example of best practice, let’s pay a tribute to Rolls Royce and the bailed-out Lloyds Banking Group who are aiming to increase female board membership to 23%.

Compared to many of the Top 10 dealership groups and other car manufacturers, for example, where there are very few female board members if any.

Clearly those with a traditional male culture don’t realise that women on boards can have a positive impact on their bottom line? Such is the evidence in Lord Davies ‘Women on Boards’ report (2011) which states that “Companies with more women on their boards tended to outperform their rivals with a 42% higher return in sales, 66% higher return on invested capital and 53% higher return on equity.”

Of course it isn’t just the motor industry that is slow to realise this; just 12.5% of FTSE 100 Board members are women, one in five have no women in their boardrooms and this drops to an average of 7.8% for all FTSE 250 companies.

Nonetheless Lord Davies is calling for UK companies to commit to an ambitious target of 25% female board membership by 2015. I’d love to think the UK motor industry would commit to this, knowing the problems it has recruiting young women into automotive careers as well as the poor image it has in so many female customer minds.

A couple of clues were identified during research carried out by Cranfield University. They found that there is a lack of flexibility around work/life balance (to do with families in particular) and that traditional male cultural environments, the old boys network and a lack of networking opportunities for women are major deterrents for qualified females who might otherwise make good board members.

I identify with these issues in the motor industry. But I do not agree with one of the suggested solutions, which is to provide more training opportunities for women. May I suggest that it is the men that are more in need of training about women if women are to be helped to contribute their talents and to flourish in this industry.

I can understand why female board members are good for the bottom line and, with the right female board members empowered to encourage others in their wake, I think it is possible to move quite quickly from a male cultural environment towards a healthier gender diverse workplace. Providing the business wants to adopt a more female friendly agenda in future that is.

Automotive Careers Champion

Find out more about Steph Savill @ LinkedIn