On 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
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.