Tag Archives: female friendly businesses

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.


Top 50 female friendly employers

The Times Top 50 employers for womenCongratulations to Jaguar Land Rover for being the only retail motor industry business listed in the Top 50 Employers for Women.

The 2011 ‘Times Top 50 Employers for Women’ have just been announced. The Awards competition is free to enter and candidates need to provide evidence of internal action and external commitment as well as providing two case study stories to show specific areas of truly best practice.

The parallels between being a female friendly employer and a female friendly business are clear. If you get things right for women, chances are you’re going that extra mile for all staff AND all customers. If a business is seen as female friendly you’ll attract more women into roles that women do well such as customer facing and caring roles. Yes of course men can do these too – my point is merely that in a male dominated industry with fewer than 10% females (ie the retail motor industry) the barriers to entry for both staff and customers are often too high to encourage new entrants. Needless to say (but just in case anyone thinks this is a sexist philosophy) any employer who treats women particularly well is going to be one of the best employers for men too.

I was not surprised to see Asda here; the only supermarket listed in the top 50. This is based on their reported efforts to make sure their staff (called colleagues) have the opportunity to develop in their roles and work flexibly so they can fit careers around home lives.

The Awards were judged by Opportunity Now, the workplace gender equality campaign and comments from Director Helen Wells illustrate the significance of the points I’ve just made, using Asda as her case study.

“I firmly believe that creating workplaces which tap into the talents of all is a commercial imperative. At Asda it is clearly seen as a strategic business issue not a women’s issue. Asda should be congratulated for its commitment and tenacity in creating a work culture which is inclusive and diverse. Being one of The Times Top 50 Employers for Women is testament to how seriously the company has looked to address the recruitment, retention and progression of women through its organisation.”

Here are the 2011 winners.

1.Addleshaw Goddard

2.American Express




6.BAE Systems

7.Bank of America Merrill Lynch

8.Barclays PLC

9.British Sky Broadcasting




13.Credit Suisse



16.DHL Supply Chain

17.Enterprise Rent-A-Car

18.Everything Everywhere

19.Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer

20.Genesis Housing Group



23.Hogan Lovells

24.Home Office

25.Humberside Fire


27.Jaguar Land Rover


29.Leicestershire Constabulary

30.Marks & Spencer


32.McKinsey & Company

33.Mercer Limited


35.Morgan Stanley

36.National Grid


38.Office of Communications

39.Olympic Delivery Authority



42.Procter & Gamble


44.Queen’s University, Belfast

45.Royal Air Force

46.Royal Bank of Scotland



49.University of Sheffield

50.West Midlands Police

Well done to all.



Empty female friendly promises

FOXY listed female friendly business
A FOXY listed female friendly business

It’s all too easy to write ‘we are a female friendly garage’ at a website yet not have an inkling what this entails.  Very often businesses think equality means treating men and women the same and perhaps some garages think the FOXY initiative is a feminist thing; but just in case it might bring them new business, they say they are female friendly without giving this any thought.

Whereas the truth is that being female friendly is a BIG BUSINESS ISSUE because women are the gender spenders when it comes to buying cars and garage services like MOTs, car servicing and repairs. And because UK garages aren’t regulated and few mechanics are accredited so complaint levels are too high and service levels are too low…

Which is why we find that genuinely female friendly businesses are usually the best ones out there.

Most women think that the male dominated motor industry is in need of a female friendly makeover – making it a better place for women drivers AND men too. The business case is simple; those that get it right for fussy foxy females will reap considerable commercial gain over complacent other garages who think that their motor industry standards are good enough.

Sadly few businesses that say they are female friendly but haven’t joined FOXY’s network yet show measurable signs of workmanship quality, superior customer services or investment in facilities and amenities to make garage services shopping a more enjoyable experience for women in future. Which is what FOXY is all about, of course.

Just for the record, what FOXY does is different as follows…
1    Garage subscribers sign the FOXY Promise to ‘never overcharge, patronise or sell women services they don’t need or want.’
2    We actively help women to understand their choices with an independent and unbiased FOXY Good Garage Guide.
3    We create a female friendly website page to supplement and complement and existing website entries; this is ideal to measure responses to marketing campaigns for example.
4    We cater more for females by identifying and focusing on quality standards, caring customer services and superior facilities that we know women want. We also reveal which garages and dealerships are near shops, have clean washrooms, employ women and welcome children.
5    We actively promote these businesses to women; online and via the Club.
6    FOXY Lady Drivers Club keeps in touch with members via email AND encourage feedback. We also invite this via the FOXY Choice website.
7    Finally, if a member has a serious problem at a garage, car dealer or main franchised dealership we’ll help her sort it out through our informal mediation. We haven’t needed to get the knuckledusters out in some 2 years so our approach does work and we reserve the ultimate weapon ‘we’ll tell local ladies within the Club’ or ‘we’ll remove you from the FOXY Choice register.’

But we can’t do any of this if you are dealing with a garage that says it’s female friendly but hasn’t signed the FOXY Promise. There is no alternative…


PS: In case I am being unfair about a genuinely female friendly garage that doesn’t know about FOXY Choice yet, please tell them and hopefully they’ll add their support to ours. We are all about focusing on industry quality for the good of ALL motorists by adopting independent foxy benchmark standards as in female, fussy and feisty. And because too few garages are good enough as recent Which? and BBC Watchdog consumer exercises confirm.

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

Male business models get it wrong for women

If any industry wants to attract women to it, it should first start by taking a female friendly audit of itself and see how it is honestly perceived by other women.

Take the global IT industry for starters which has been trying to tempt more females into it for good reason. Why might this industry be shunned by women all over the world one wonders?

Perhaps this is a clue. Australia has just held a conference in Sydney intended to encourage more women to consider an IT career. Very honourable intentions and you would expect women to be interested.

Until someone male at Microsoft decided to employ a team of bikini clad Meter Maids and a female furore broke out which completely cancelled out the strategic intent.  Fortunately we females have a sense of humour but we also have long memories.

Answer this question to illustrate this point further please.

If you could work in an industry that makes you welcome and appreciates your talents, would you rather be there than in one that makes fun of you or sees you as a sex object?

Fairly self-evident I’d have thought but you can be sure that men wouldn’t put up with the offence if the tables were turned. The reason the tables aren’t turned is because most women would sense men’s discomfort and not put them through it!

What a shame that men aren’t armed with the same intuitive sensitivity!

The motor industry has a similar credibility gap to bridge with women if it wants to be seen as genuinely female friendly. As a male dominated industry with less than 20% of the workforce female it must seem fairly natural to be ‘blokey’ in like-minded company. But women don’t like to be demeaned in this way. They are actively looking for employers and to spend money with businesses that court their skills and provide female friendly service levels.

So the lessons to be learned for a more female friendly motor industry in future are…

  • no scantily clad females at car and aftermarket exhibitions and conferences
  • no Page Three magazine covers visible in petrol station shops
  • no offensive calendars or posters on garage workshop walls
  • no haha female motoring jokes in Friday afternoon trade papers
  • more recruitment ads with women in mind and where they’ll read them
  • more respect for female customers
  • more sensitivity towards women – we’re different from you; vive la difference

Not much to ask for really … unless you want to alienate some 50% of your customers that is?

In which case, congratulations because many of you are making a really good fist of it as is.


Find out where the female friendly garages, dealers and main dealerships are in the UK