Tag Archives: quotas

Why Women Drivers Matter

mary_barra_changeOn International Women’s Day one’s thoughts can happily turn to our own gender, hopefully without someone feeling the need to tell me there’s no International Men’s Day.

Well there mightn’t be but so what? If I want to write about women, celebrate feminism, praise the achievements of my gender, the new Women’s Equality Party and/or remind everyone why women matter then so be it.

Men have been patting themselves on their backs for years and that’s fine by me. But today it’s our turn and sadly the gender news in the motor industry isn’t as self congratulatory as it might look to those that don’t know how to scratch the surface here.

But let’s take this step by step…

1) The economic importance of women drivers

As you know, my blog is about women and motoring (by and large) so you can expect me to confine my comments to this area. So it’s worth reminding ourselves that the number of women drivers on UK roads will soon overtake that of men on our roads. So that’s close to 50% of all car tax, insurance and fuel payments/taxation straight away. We were at 47% of license holders last year for your information…

Then let’s add in the fact that women buy about half of all ‘new’ cars in their own right, influencing as many as 80% of all cars bought*. By influence, that’s when ‘he’ chooses the car but says to the salesman ‘that’s what I want but my wife/partner needs to approve this before I pay’. In the US they say this female influence accounts for as many as 90% of car sales. And some car dealers put this at 100%, based on evident experience (and a wicked sense of down-trodden humour I suspect).

* estimated as two million brand new cars and some five million used cars.

2) The female motoring multiplier effect

The point of this massive consumer motoring influence is that this also represents jobs in manufacturing plants, jobs in UK car dealerships, in garages and automotive suppliers – as well as the spin off effect of the jobs created to serve the expenditure from these jobs and so on. So what women buy (or not?) influences jobs and the businesses that do best and so on.

At FOXY Lady Drivers Club we feel the female shopping effect particularly strongly when it comes to buying garage services today. Like the many cars women are increasingly buying online (rather than going to unfriendly garages/car dealerships) an increasing number of busy females are shopping for MOT’s, car servicing and both mechanical & bodywork repairs online, often at night, for the family fleet. Even if those women then delegate the test drive and/or garage visit to a male (that’s another story for another blog…).

3) Is our fantastic motor industry as good as it could be?

Let’s look at the key statistics taken from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) excellent Facts Guide (2015).

+ The UK automotive industry turnover was a cool £69.5 billion in 2015
+ There are more than 32 million cars on our roads
+ More than 1.5 million cars were built in the UK in 2014
+ 2.47 million new cars were first registered in 2014
+ Nearly 800,000 individuals are employed in the UK automotive industry
+ 7 out of 10 F1 teams are based in the UK
+ 80% of the world’s largest automotive suppliers are based in the UK

Impressive figures for sure but let’s remember – this is the industry that we women are paying our fair share towards and much as I’d love to carry on crowing about it, I can’t because it doesn’t represent our female needs. But it should.

In a nutshell this industry needs to be a lot more female friendly than it is. Too many women prefer visiting dentists than garages. Recent research** suggests 90% of a Mumsnet and Reevoo female sample would not go car shopping without a man and women are three times more likely to report an ‘awful’ than ‘excellent’ experience in a dealership.

How can this be good enough for such important customers I have to ask?

**See Different Spin research.

Don’t you think we women deserve better than this guys, when you see why we should matter so much more to you?

4) The missing female industry talent

Whilst it’s International Women’s Day and a chance to celebrate our female influence in the automotive industry I’m sad to end this blog on a negative note, although this can become a future positive given genuine intent.

In a recent film project involving ITN, the Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI) suggests that a woeful 2% of jobs in this industry are occupied by women. I was horrified and have questioned this. Can it possibly be so low?

Accurate or not, diversity needs to be a top level strategic Board agenda objective and reported on annually by both the SMMT and the RMI (Retail Motor Industry Federation) about their respective memberships. We should surely benchmark best gender practice wherever we find it, to encourage the many laggards here to get their act together, once and for all, to represent female customers (and future employees) in the Boardroom. Only then will the ambitious female talent pipeline have somewhere appealing to head for in this industry rather than the many more female friendly career destinations we compete with.

5) Quotas are needed in the motor industry

I suggest we measure this gender outcome in future International Women’s Days to come. Quite frankly I’m not interested in Lord Davies’ token 25% gender targets now. We’re too far behind to follow his footsteps gently. We need an urgent and determined stride towards the only gender metric that really matters – 50:50. And we’re SO far away from this goal in the UK automotive industry that I can’t see us getting there without QUOTAS.

If I’m wrong, and I’d love to be, pray tell me how come waiting for the female creme de la creme to rise to the top of the automotive industry naturally hasn’t happened to date? And why it would do in future without benchmark quotas to meet? It certainly isn’t because we aren’t good enough.

If you are against quotas (as I was originally) please work out how long it’ll take to be fair to female employees and customers if we don’t impose female quotas? But don’t tell me you would only want to be chosen ‘for being the best’ because you aren’t even in the final selection process as is…

How can 2% of jobs allocated to women in any industry be fair enough or suggest that any women who were chosen in a future quota aren’t good enough (or even the best) to too many male Board members who clearly don’t want any sitting at their top table?

As I see it, the time is right for gender quotas in the automotive industry and not just in the UK one either. I don’t see the industry has a choice unless women continue to let it get away with this any longer.

By all means tell me what you think via Twitter @FOXYSteph or info@foxyladydrivers.com.

And if any automotive businesses would like my help to get on the female radar ahead of others, be sure to get in touch with me via my personal website.

FOXY

NB: Our country earns a similar amount of motoring-related tax as it spends on defence, and twice as much as we spend on education it seems. I also wish more women voted hence my support for the Women’s Equality Party.

Should women leaders be more like men?

Women-as-LeadersThe Telegraph published a thought provoking article about women as business leaders yesterday.

On the one side we’re described as humourless, some of us are more aggressive than the most ambitious men, we’re too emotional and so on.

But don’t put us all into the same camp says BBC Apprentice’s Katie Hopkins who admits to hating other women’s successes, preferring to work for a rational male and not caring a jot for people’s feelings, simply shareholder returns.

With both these viewpoints on the table, it’s clear to me that too many women haven’t been prepared for leadership roles and that ambitious wannabe Queen Bees think the only way up is by outbloking the men in their sights…

A waste of business time

I know how this feels because I’ve been there myself. In my 30s I was a Board Director for travel divisions of Granada, Mecca and Rank organisations and whilst travel was never the male dominated bastion the motor industry is today I still fought my way up. With the benefit of hindsight I definitely subscribed to the Katie Hopkins school of business thinking, more than than the Karren Brady one I now much prefer.

My eyes were finally opened when a fellow Director complimented me on a job well done by saying ‘You can consider yourself an honorary bloke Steph’ expecting me to be pleased by that.

That’s when the penny dropped that you can’t odds gender. Try as hard as you like, a man can’t be a woman and vice versa. So why was I bothering to be like a man and why are men trying to be like women when it comes to unleashing their sentimental sides…

I don’t know the answer to that other than to say we’re all flogging a dead horse if we can imagine we can be something we aren’t. So why not spend time understanding ourselves, letting the real ‘me’ rise to the surface, and let’s learn to live with it warts and all…

Gender roles in business

Observe a healthy business team working well together. Men bring logic and women bring emotional intelligence, encouraging team participation. It’s a bit like a strong marriage, assuming you pick the right men and women. It should be a partnership that complements each other’s talents hence the need for men and women to work together in healthy Boardrooms exerting that influence throughout their business. And there is evidence that this approach produces greater profits and shareholder value.

But sadly women don’t always fit in to the man’s world at the top and I can understand why those who are willing to fight their way to the top may feel the need to fend off female competition in that struggle… Having reached their goal, many women find themselves out of their depth because they don’t understand the male rules and chances are they don’t talk corporate male speak either.

NB: This is rarely a problem where a male CEO is enlightened, determined to listen, understand, appreciate and advance the female business cause.

Again, I have been a Non Executive Director too and despite my previous Executive Board experience I didn’t find this a rewarding role at the time. Was this my fault? I don’t think so although I’m not blaming anyone else. The reality is, as always, where an all male Board is a happy ship why would they feel the need to question that status quo especially if this meant learning female speak in the process? They simply didn’t see or feel the need to adapt in any way and I couldn’t speak their language to make my case heard.

So whose fault is it?

If some women leaders aren’t popular, don’t have a sense of humour, are scaring their female and male business peers as well as letting down their female successors they can expect to be shot down in flames… but it just mightn’t be their fault.

As always, the health of a business is best read at the very top. No really good CEO will want to ignore 50% of the best talent that might come their Board’s way in future. If female quotas become obligatory, I would be very surprised if a good male CEO wasn’t ahead of the pack having previously selected the best females for his team.

But there are other sorts of CEOs who mightn’t be at all willing or able to make a smooth transition from an all male Board to a gender balanced Board. And, sure as eggs are eggs, even the most talented and hard-working women will struggle to demonstrate their contribution in this situation.

The missing link

And the missing link in all this is surely the lack of training about gender issues in our business world.

1 Male CEOs need to be helped to understand what the best women can bring to the Board, how to maximise female talent when women reach Board level and why a healthy female pipeline is a source of considerable envy and competitive advantage with a view to the future.

2 Male and female Directors need training about the best ways to work together…

3 Male and female Managers need training to understand that what the business needs is their cooperation, natural talents and personalities – not them trying to be people they aren’t and unpleasant ones at that.

And herein lies the rub. If employers can’t make nice employees out of unpleasant ones, no matter how talented and profitable they might promise to be, I for one would have no place for them in any business I run.

But worst of all are those women who can’t support other women for they have no heart and therefore no place in mine. Thank goodness I learned this lesson before it was too late to make a difference for others…

FOXY

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

Finally this is the article that triggered this blog…http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-business/10237722/Are-women-really-such-awful-bosses.html