From personal experience it seems to me that women face more risks than men today when they set out for the top in their chosen industry.
One risk is that married women might put their career before their marriage and end up professionally successful but living alone. Which might be preferable for some of course…
Another is that women returning to work after maternity leave may feel the need to opt for part time roles so they can fit in their childcare and home responsibilities.
And I’m sure we all know or have read about women who delay starting a family until it’s too late and live to regret this. Of course some don’t regret this at all, but with women delaying their families until they’re financially better off in their 40s, it’s statistically much riskier to give birth then than in their 20s and 30s.
The final risk I see is that successful females end up being the success they crave but don’t recognise the person they have become to get there, as US singer-actress Fanny Brice explains so well…
“Let the world know you as you are, not as you think you should be, because sooner or later, if you are posing, you will forget the pose, and then where will you be?”
Aren’t these career risks the same for men?
I don’t think men face the same career risks. Those I know who are ambitious, successful and keen to have a family seem to have rolled out their career carpet at an early stage and chosen a partner who supports their ambition, appreciates the lifestyle rewards and is willing to play second fiddle to her husband. Having thought long and hard about this, I honestly don’t know any men who took time out from their careers to be full time Dads (time off to help when the baby was born, yes) compared to the many Mums that do. And finally, very few men seem to suffer anything like the same feelings of guilt that women do, trying to juggle home, family and career responsibilities.
Many of these risks evidently exist for ambitious women in the motor industry whether they are at the top, getting close to the top or simply starting at the bottom. Despite it being generally agreed that more women are a good thing in the industry, few leading businesses seem to have diversity at the top of their strategic agenda and few female school leavers and/or graduates seem aware of the exciting career opportunities they could be enjoying in this male dominated industry.
How do women in the motor industry see this?
I am often intrigued when women at the top of male dominated industries say they haven’t encountered discrimination on the way up. They probably haven’t because they’ve had to be exceptionally talented to get there in the first place. But they’d have to be blind to see that this isn’t true for everyone, including women who perhaps aren’t quite as exceptional or dedicated. And mightn’t the sacrifices that these exceptional females have made be deterring other very talented women from following in their wake? There are still so many motor industry Companies without even one female Executive Board Director, as things stand.
The reason this matters is because women in influential and customer facing roles can be seen as role models for tomorrow’s leaders, in an industry that needs to be seen as a more female friendly place than it is today, to please the gender spender, the female shopper.
At present too many women see garages and car showrooms as places to avoid, where you need to take a man with you for support, or where you need to enter with guns blazing for fear of being patronised and/or ripped off.
Hear, hear Fanny Brice. Nobody can have it all in life, of course, and I’m only speaking for me but I’d like to see women being encouraged to be the women they are, not men in skirts (as it were).
Let’s celebrate the fact that men and women work best together (as in marriage) when it’s seen to be a partnership, not a battle of the sexes. That’s the success we should all want to work towards in business, with women playing an equal part alongside men. And if this requires changes to business culture and/or working hours to help women, in particular, through their family years, then so be it.