Tag Archives: motor industry careers

UK motor sport careers for girls

Dare to Be Different karters at Daytona Sandown

Few of us know of or appreciate the vital economic contribution UK motor sports makes to our economy.

The last figures from the Motor Sports Association (MSA) tell us that in 2012, the UK motor sport engineering and services industry earned no less than £9 billion, having nearly doubled this turnover in a decade.

And that period included a long and tough recession.

Some 4300 companies are part of the motor sport industry and employ about 41,000 people with nearly 90 per cent of these businesses exporting worldwide. And, as you might expect, there is a particular focus on R&D with some firms spending more than 25 per cent of their annual turnover on development.

What is the most important resource in the motor industry?

Guess what resource is the most important to any ambitious industry and employer? It’s the human resource of course – the best talent there is on offer – regardless of gender, race and age.

Yes, motor sports is undoubtedly the sexy side of the motor industry (compared to working in a garage or selling car parts although each to their own) yet it has the same dilemma. That of getting its career message through to as many appropriately talented and ambitious females alongside the already open door for traditionally petrol-headed males – that girls can do and can enjoy a wide range of industry careers that have been previously thought of as no-go areas for them of old…

Getting the motor sports career message out to girls

A UK motor sports initiative to change this gender stereotype raced off the starting grid at Daytona Sandown Park on 13 April 2016 with 100 schoolgirls gaining an invaluable insight into every element of motor sport from driving and engineering to media skills, fitness and nutrition.

Founded by former Formula 1 driver Susie Wolff and the MSA, Dare To Be Different is a high-profile new initiative designed to inspire, connect and celebrate women in every aspect of motor sport. Following months of preparation Dare To Be Different’s first event took place at the state-of-the-art Daytona Sandown karting facility in Surrey, bringing together 100 girls from ten local schools.

Daytona provided Honda-powered 160cc Cadet and 200cc Junior karts for the girls to earn their racing spurs and compete in a tyre-changing pit-stop challenge, Williams sent along an F1 show car for technical tours and photo opportunities and Sky F1 presenter Natalie Pinkham taught the eager participants the tricks of the trade when it comes to interview etiquette.

Dare to Be Different hovercraft buildingNot only that, but ambassadors from national flagship programme STEMNET (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Network) gave up their time to assist with a fun and educational hovercraft-building exercise.

In addition to all this, workshops on diet and fitness meant that each girl left with a comprehensive understanding of every facet of this fascinating sport – and as an official Dare To Be Different delegate.

Dare To Be Different Ambition

Former F1 racing driver Susie Wolff explained what the thought process is behind such an event.

“We want to see more girls coming into motor sport at grass-roots level, and karting is just one aspect of that. The breadth of potential careers within motor sport is immense, and to reflect that, beyond the karting we also offered the girls journalism and media presentation skills, hovercraft-building, fitness workshops and nutrition advice. Today is just the start of the Dare To Be Different journey – there’s so much more still to come.”

The MSA – the UK governing body of motor sport – was represented by its CEO Rob Jones, who added

“Motor sport is one of the very few sports in which women can compete at the same time and on equal terms as men – it offers a level playing field for everyone, and each event entails a phenomenal behind-the-scenes effort. By the same token, behind every driver are hundreds if not thousands of people working in different but equally essential areas of the sport.

“It was fantastic to have the Williams F1 car here. Claire Williams is the perfect role model to illustrate what women in motor sport can achieve. We hope that some of these girls will ultimately come to work in motor sport, be that as competitors or in some other professional capacity. That is the underlying aim of this campaign – to market and raise the profile of the career opportunities available within the sport – and what we saw today was a fantastic start.”

There are currently around 1,500 female MSA licence-holders in the UK which, whilst a significant number, represents only five per cent of all those competing in motor sport events throughout the country – a proportion that Dare To Be Different is eager to increase.

Dare To Be Different 2016 dates:

17 May, Nutts Corner, Crumlin, Northern Ireland
22 June, Daytona Milton Keynes, Milton Keynes
25 August, Knockhill Circuit, Fife, Scotland
15 September, Daytona Manchester, Manchester

To Find Out More

Here’s the Dare To Be Different MSA website details where these events will no doubt be announced at soon.

FOXY says:

This is a marvellous initiative and one I’d love to see as part of a Big Picture motor industry careers roadshow to sell the message of ALL motor industry careers to women. To women of all ages, including those that chose an early career in a more female friendly industry and who now could be tempted to bring their much needed business and customer service skills into automotive Boardrooms and senior management roles… As well as selling apprenticeship roles to young females and males alike.

But how marvellous to see Susie and Claire paying back – doing their bit to encourage other females into following in their impressive career footsteps. Two fantastic role models that WILL make a genuine difference to gender recruitment in UK motor sports in future.

And who knows… maybe a future spin off of Dare To Be Different might result in a new racing championship for females? As I see it, if women can have their own golf, tennis, swimming and team sports championships, why not a motor racing league for women too? Why wouldn’t we Dare To Be Different here as well?…


PS: Here’s what FOXY Lady Drivers Club does and how to join the club.

Do girls still expect to have it all?

Well done GirlGuiding UK. I have just read some excellent qualitative (ie opinion-based) research about girls’ attitudes to careers and how they might balance this with having a family.

Do they want to be superwomen and have it all or are they better informed about their career choices than we were in the 80s?

I am particularly interested here because young women are steadily achieving better GCSE grades and university results than young men. Industries that benefit from this female talent will be those that the girls choose over others.

Let’s hope this is a wake up call to the motor industry where, at present, only a tiny number of young women are considering a career.

Here are the findings that struck me as most accurate and telling.

Girls attitudes about education and female role models

56% of girls feel that they don’t get enough advice about choosing GCSEs and A levels
57% believe that women have to work much harder than men to succeed
60% are put off a career in engineering because of a lack of female role models

Whilst the likes of Victoria Beckham, Beyonce and Katie Price are quoted as role models, few could recall a female politician other than Margaret Thatcher. Few quoted any role models from male-dominated fields such as engineering, where girls’ professed lack of interest meant that they paid little attention.

Fortunately most girls realise that celebrity status isn’t necessarily real life for everyone and are looking more to their mothers as more relevant role models. This attitude does change as girls get older however; they start looking for external role models more and I can’t think of any big names they are likely to know of in the UK’s motor industry.

What industries are girls most interested in?

The girls in the research explained that they find it difficult to know what careers are available, beyond the obvious ones that attract the youngest, such as teacher, nurse, hairdresser, vet. As they get older, girls become aware that there is a huge variety of careers, but they know little about them and are unsure how to find out more.

Few showed any interest in traditionally ‘male’ careers such as engineering, construction or trades, arguing that this is not what girls like or are interested in. Some would be reluctant to draw attention to themselves by working in this type of field – making the existing gender bias self-perpetuating.

This last sentence is particularly telling and suggests that women don’t want to feel the odd one out in what they perceive to be a male dominated industry.

For the motor industry to figure in this list (and why shouldn’t it or want to be there) the industry needs to have a more female friendly image in the minds of girls, supported by leading businesses that reflect an agenda of diversity at Board level.

This is a tall order indeed if businesses (run by men like the one I spoke to earlier today) think that marketing services differently to women is pointless, regardless of the fact that females are the gender spenders and don’t expect to be treated like men. Could it be that there are businesses that prefer their industry the way it is, regardless of the female business case?

How do girls see combining a career and having children?

‘I want my career before I have children. I don’t want to be one of them [sic] women with eight kids in a flat.’

89% believe that having children would affect their career
69% would consider deferring having children to allow them to follow their perfect career
53% of girls would want to work part-time when their children are young
43% think that girls aspire to be hairdressers because ‘some jobs are more for girls’

These are probably areas that the motor industry could be addressing if it REALLY wants to encourage more women into it.

The most challenging question for me, raised at the end of this research, is how can an increasing range of truly talented females, not just in the motor industry, gain the exposure required for them to become role models for today’s girls and young women. So that their industries attract their fair share of the best young talent, regardless of gender.

FOXY is happy to support this debate on behalf of the UK motor industry in any way it can. We are keen to introduce the UK motor industry and the exciting careers in it to women. To do this we surely need to scotch the rumour (prevalent in so many female minds) that the motor industry is still a male bastion; it needs to be seen as a future career arena for women.

Without more women in the industry, how can we ever get customer service levels to the standards that women customers expect? Women who are the gender spenders remember…

If you would like to know more, why not join the debate on Twitter using #realrolemodels or visit www.girlguiding.org.uk/realrolemodels.


Should girls be boys and vice versa?

Don’t ask me why I read research about gender differences when this usually winds me up afterwards.

Vive la difference is my gender take on life and I have been known to take a particularly dim view when someone suggests girls should be boys and vice versa…

The latest research appeared in Wednesday’s Telegraph from the catchily titled ‘Perspectives on Psychological Science’ journal and  seems to confirm that women COULD be as good as men at car maintenance and DIY if they wanted to be.

This is based on tests the US Army carry out to assess the capability of potential recruits. These suggest that it’s more a case of motivation than genuine gender aptitude. Fortunately the University of Iowa’s Professor Frank Schmidt isn’t suggesting that mechanical talents are compulsory and admits that it’s very hard to change people’s interests which form early in life.

What I’d like to know is why anyone would want to encourage women to be mechanics, or men beauticians for that matter, when it’s obviously a very small number of either that might want to cross the stereotypical divide.

Let’s look at the motor industry for example. Should women be encouraged and trained to be mechanics to then be feted for their engineering or technical triumphs? When men don’t get the same publicity.  Do men who create a new perfume or lipstick get the same encouragement I wonder?

Even if being a mechanic was one of the most exciting careers in the motor industry (which it might be to some), nothing could ever make me want to be one and local car drivers should be eternally grateful to know this!  This is why I have a mechanically-minded husband, breakdown insurance and use a network of female friendly garages to service, maintain and repair my car when need be.

But I have lots of other and more natural skills to contribute and the motor industry should be celebrating and encouraging female employees to add their talents where they are needed most (I’d say that is in the customer service area).

Having said that about me (and on behalf of many foxy lady drivers who probably feel the same way too), nobody could be more supportive of women who have technical and/or engineering leanings and who want to pursue a career on the garage floor or in accident repair paint shops. Go for it girls… I will defend your right to equal opportunities when it comes to your education, career and pay. But it’s still a man’s world of course.

In a nutshell, most women are different from most men (thank goodness) and we don’t want to be treated the same as them – even if it’s under the misguided cover of equality.

And even if women could do maintenance and DIY if we wanted to, I get no more comfort than I assume a blokey man would do if he was told he could do delicate embroidery work and elaborate floral displays if he wanted to.

So let’s have less of this politically correct bananas in future.


Helping women up the career ladder

I am passionate about encouraging women to join the motor industry and then move up the career ladder to make this a more female friendly environment for all – ALL customers and future female employees alike.

This is for sound business not feminist reasons as women are VERY IMPORTANT and often MISUNDERSTOOD customers who buy for family members as well as themselves and they influence others. Get it right for us and we stay loyal; get it wrong and we go elsewhere, sharing this with others as we move on.  If that’s not good enough reason, we also know that many women prefer dealing with women in male dominated industries.

At the recent AM Used Car Market Conference I mentioned that it’s easier for men to recruit in their own likeness, not realising that few women read motor sections in local papers or look at jobs in what they see as an industry that isn’t genuinely female friendly enough. So employers have to want to employ females to begin with, to stop the self perpetuating male recruitment cycle, then get their thinking caps on about how to attract the very best men and women candidates alike.

One way for employers to encourage female recruits would be to demonstrate that they already employ female staff (by promoting them as Female Business Ambassadors perhaps). They can also ask existing female staff how to recruit in their own likeness for a change. Alternatively employers might decide to improve existing female staff skills through training; so they can move up the career ladder and take on more valuable roles in the business.

If you are a female reading this and interested in knowing more about the motor industry I suggest you visit the excellent Autocity website.

If you are an employer and would like to encourage a tried and tested female member of staff into a bigger and better job, you may well be interested in valuable funding from the Women and Work Sector Paths Initiative to help with training opportunities.

The funding initiative is available for women in England going through career development training courses between now and February 2011; there’s no time to waste if you’re interested. Employers need to be seen to spend a minimum of £1000* for a funding grant of £400 per participant. Whilst that might sound onerous in today’s economy, you can count in her legitimate employment costs in the £1000 which should go a long way towards demonstrating this. Providing you contribute a minimum of £100 in cash, you may well qualify AND you’ll improve employee performance, staff retention and your customer service in one.

For more information about the Women and Work scheme and how to get involved, please contact Emma Lawson on 01992 511521 or emmal@motor.org.uk. But don’t hang about.


To find genuinely female friendly garages and dealerships near you, or to leave female feedback about one that isn’t listed yet, you can do this at the FOXY Choice website.