Tag Archives: Automotive Careers Champion

Why women ignore retail motor industry careers

Thousands of female university students are ignoring careers in the automotive industry according to a recent Autocar survey.

A tiny 3.5% of female university students interviewed would consider a career in the automotive industry although an encouraging 35% said they might do, possibly in an attempt to please their interviewer…

However that still leaves nearly 2 out of 3 females who aren’t interested in a career in the UK automotive industry compared to the majority of male university students who are (61%).

I am not surprised. The main reason why there are so few women in the UK retail motor industry is to do with its perceived image in female minds.

Whilst much has been done by the IMI in particular to encourage women into engineering roles and to train them to move up the ladder, little has been done to address the overly blokey attitude of the 80%+ male workers in this industry. This blinkered and often offensive attitude, that we all know exists, needs to change in line with female needs and expectations of a modern business today.

Why would any woman want to fight her way through an industry that can be so offensive (if you listen) and with such a poor record of females reaching senior management or Board positions.

If this image is to change, the UK motor industry needs businesses with more females at Board and senior management levels. Of course the women that have made it to the top already are very special and have proved it can be done but to get there they have had to be resilient and focused to cope (and turn a blind eye) with the testosterone and patronising behaviour so typical of this industry. Not all females can be that bothered…

And it should be said that this image is unfair and damaging to the many genuinely female friendly businesses we know exist…

The sadness is that few men recognise this image and successful females forget that few females are as focused or as fortunate as them.  In my experience the industry seems to think it is non-PC to favour females and seems to prefer to educate the customer in her dealings with the industry rather than the other way round.

I see it differently. Looking at garages and dealerships for starters, the industry is dysfunctional as it exists with such a male bias; we all kid ourselves if we think women (the gender spenders after all) want to be treated like men.

So something must be done to bring our motor industry up to date and to restore a more healthy female:male gender balance. The business case is clear –  women want and expect more than men from automotive employers and the retail motor industry businesses we deal with. Trying to understand us would be a good idea…

I suggest we

  • put more oomph into the IMI’s Automotive Careers Champion network with a dedicated marketing campaign for young women that doesn’t make it seem as if we should be technically-literate
  • investigate new channels to explain to young females how exciting a motor industry career in marketing, sales and personnel can be
  • encourage more female NEDs from outside the industry; tasked to make individual businesses (manufacturers, dealer groups, trade associations and individual businesses) more female friendly from the top down
  • encourage businesses to recruit and invest in more (of the right) female staff ie let’s have less of the ‘experience needed’ self perpetuating gender adverts when the likes of a simple systems training course would have the right female up to speed in little time and a fresh insight as a bonus

In short there is a need to train employers in the motor industry how to be MORE FEMALE FRIENDLY businesses and employers.

Let’s see how the two female judges in the 2011 Autocar-Courland Next Generation Award go about encouraging female automotive talent this year. As the pre-launch survey confirms women lack confidence in their dealings with the motor industry and need mentoring and encouragement. Otherwise they go to employers and into industries where they clearly feel more at home.

Which is totally understandable but a great loss of potential talent for our industry in many instances.


Female Business Ambassadors in the motor industry

Female Business Ambassadors in the male dominated motor industry are important role models who have the ability to make their business more female friendly for women customers AND females who choose a career in their footsteps.

To date women in the motor industry remain a rare species and many have a cultural work challenge on their hands. To remain female and all that is good about being so in a male dominated and often testosterone driven world where 80% of all employees are male and female customers and employees often feel ill at ease in overly macho garage and dealership environments.

All women want equality of course when it comes to jobs, opportunities and pay but we also want respect from our male colleagues and to be treated as women.

The temptation is that after working so hard to be accepted in a man’s world that women learn to beat them by outplaying them at their game – in so doing becoming tougher than they would be in a female workplace or if allowed to be and valued for being themselves.

Which is a shame because male and female sexes are designed to work well together be that in the home or at work. We each have abilities, talents and skills to complement the other and when respect is there, it works well.

Where they can, I’d like women to do more to make the motor industry a more female friendly and welcoming place for women. To encourage more females to consider the motor industry as a rewarding industry to join. And so that wary women customers feel more at ease in garages and dealerships and even enjoy their car buying and car servicing trips in future. Women trust women of course, and they are likely to be the domestic spender. Given a choice, they’ll spend more in a business that recognises their needs, will think better of the industry and will tell their friends.  Makes business sense to me!

There are some fantastic role models who do this naturally of course and one of the best is surely Sarah Sillars at the IMI leading a well balanced gender team and doing great work to encourage young men and women into the motor industry. And there is some excellent work in the pipeline by a team of Automotive Careers Champions who have signed up to do their bit and spread the word about the exciting career opportunities in the motor industry.

But there are many women who still think that the only way forward is for women to be better, tougher, more ruthless than men; as a result they don’t appreciate why Mums work flat out to be able to leave on time, why they need holiday time off with their children and who need time off to cover child/relatives illness and essential visits to doctors and dentists. In my experience, the good workers make this up by truckloads of hard work afterwards because they need the work and genuinely value their employer’s flexibility and humanity.   This isn’t because working Mums are less capable or committed workers – it’s because they are often juggling more responsibilities than most others when it comes to homes, children and careers.

And there are some women who can’t understand why we might want to elevate reluctant women in some commercial instances or why we might need to make dealerships or garages more female friendly places. Some women who have fought their way upwards don’t see an alternative journey or want to help others have an easier climb.

However I’m delighted that networks like FOXY’s and the industry infrastructure is in place for the motor industry to be a much more female friendly place. What we now need to do is to make sure we promote motor industry jobs to women. As things stand, more by accident than intent, job specifications are often written by men and for men, placing ads where mainly men will read them; hence the self fulfilling male multiplier recruitment model.

And we need to make sure that male dominated businesses become good and female friendly employers in terms of their working conditions – sadly I know of women joining leading dealerships who don’t stay long. Knowing the quality of the businesses I am tempted to say that perhaps they were the wrong recruits but when it doesn’t work out it tends to dampen the equality fervour – it’s easier to revert to what you know best.

Never mind training women to get on in the industry, how about training men to understand what women can do for their business?

IMI Automotive Careers Champion – champing at the bit to encourage more women into the motor industry because it is the right thing to do…

“There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women”
Madeleine Albright
64th US Secretary of State

Mazda Marketing MX-5 to Men

In an industry where 80% of the workforce is male, female role models are still few and far between so it’s great to hear that Mazda has just appointed a female Marketing Director.

In my new role as IMI Automotive Careers Champion, encouraging more women to consider a career in our industry, I am keen to spread the word that there are many talented women at the top of our industry who are capable of influencing their male colleagues and representing the majority of their (female) customers.

The female in question is Claire Andrews, promoted to Marketing Director at Mazda Motors UK. Claire is clearly a marketing professional and previously was Mazda’s Senior Marketing Manager, Brand Manager, Business Manager responsible for one of the South East territories and originally Events and Brand@retail Manager; all since she joined the fast-moving business in 2002.

When she was Senior Marketing Manager Claire focused on the Mazda brand strategy, seeing the benefits of sponsoring Channel 4’s ‘Jamie’s American Road Trip’ ‘Kevin’s Grand Tour’and ‘Gordon’s Great Escape’ programmes in keeping with Mazda’s brand values (insightful, spirited and fun).

This month, Mazda is sponsoring ITV1’s programme ‘71 Degrees North’ to support its Mazda MX-5 Thrills campaign theme ‘Once driven, thrills are harder to find’ which is due to launch tomorrow.

Interestingly, the Thrills campaign doesn’t show imagery of the car (not sure why?) but features images of people whale somersaulting, condor gliding, buffalo derby-ing (??), lilo rafting down a waterfall, tea-tray sledging off the top of a mountain, or skateboarding down the Hoover dam, to supposedly equal the feeling experienced when driving the car.
Well I certainly don’t consider thrills to be the main reason why women would buy a MX-5  but clearly this is intended to appeal more to young men. Perhaps it is the very fact that the MX-5 is such a popular car for women is the reason why Mazda now wants to market it to men in a different light?

I look forward to seeing how Claire links Mazda’s insightful brand values to what women want from their car. It’s important to recognise that whilst women influence the majority of new car sales they often feel patronised by businesses that are a long way short of female friendly; especially when it comes to aftersales garage services.

Vive la difference and congratulations to marketers like Claire who realise that the same product and service can be sold to different audiences in different ways.

As a parting foxy shot I’d say it’s easier to sell to men if you have designed your product or service to cater for women in the first place – we are so much more fussy and many in the motor industry have yet to realise the value of the female purse here.


Find out about FOXY Choice’s female friendly car dealerships that have signed the FOXY Promise to ‘never overcharge, patronise or sell women services they don’t need or want’.

Find out and register to learn more about exciting career opportunities for women in the UK motor industry