Automotive 30% – Workforce diversity necessary for future success

Workforce diversity is not an altruistic endeavour for the automotive industry. Assumptions about cars being ‘for men’ are not just politically incorrect — they are factually incorrect.

85% of car buying decisions are made by women.

Across the industry, manufacturers, marketers and dealerships all know that appealing to female car buyers will be a massive competitive advantage. And they know the key will be hiring and promoting women.

UK Automotive 30% Club

The Automotive 30% Club was founded by Julia Muir in 2016 with the purpose of achieving a better gender balance within the automotive industry and with the aim of filling at least 30% of key leadership positions with women by 2030 through a ’30 by 30′ strategy:

  • ‘Reach Out’ – to attract female talent
  • ‘Welcome In’ – to remove bias in recruitment
  • ‘Pull Through’ – to pull women through the promotional pipeline
  • ‘Hold On’ – to retain talented women

At the Automotive 30% Club’s annual conference, we heard evidence of why gender balance is essential for commercial success and for saving lives. We also heard positive success stories, including from AutoTrader – who hosted the event.

Automotive industry – a market in need of transformation

That the automotive industry is in need of a massive transformation is no news to anyone. 

Tesla and similar companies are forcing traditional OEMs to innovate because they prioritise what the customer wants and innovate faster.

The buyer profile has changed too. Data shows that women make 85% of the buying decisions (Automotive News, 2018) and they hold 51% of vehicle licenses in the UK.

Despite women’s decision-making power, automotive dealerships have not been able to accommodate this new reality. 

In the US, only 19.2% of dealership workforce are female – 5% of the General Managers and 1% of service technicians (NADA Dealership Workforce, 2018). As a result, 75% of women who enter a dealership feel misunderstood by dealers (Bank of America).

Automotive 30% – education and research drivers for change

‘From boardroom to classroom’

In this search for female empowerment and removal of prejudices as early as possible, UK Automotive 30% Club founder Julia Muir launched Inspiring Automotive Women Day (IAW Day).

IAW Day is an annual day event, now in its 4th year. In 2019, in addition to the large anchor day event, we also coordinated 24 school visits whereby our network of female volunteers visited schools across the country to inspire their pupils to gain a greater understanding of the wide variety of job roles available within the sector.

Our volunteers are from across all levels within the business and during these sessions run a structured activity that showcases the wide variety of roles within the sector and answer questions students have about their jobs, career paths, how to achieve future career goals or the importance of work ethics and positive attitude.

During the annual Automotive 30% Club conference, pupils from East Barnet school were invited to our conference to detail the positive impact of attending our IAW Day event at the VWG National Learning Centre in May 2019. They also spoke to our delegates about their all-girls F1 in schools team called Harmony and Jada Maya-Modha spoke of her school’s robotics club called Girl Bots.

With the arrival of:

  • A female headteacher, Ms Swaine, who understands the challenges young women face in the workplace (particularly in STEM roles); and 
  • Mr Sadler, their male technology teacher who recently won an innovation award

These young women are guided by inspiring female and male adults. Their talent is being nurtured in directions they may have previously ignored (or been put off) due to a lack of awareness of female representation in those industries. 

The IAW days aim to encourage young women to consider automotive roles and it appears to be working – one attendee reported that her daughter was now considering a role in the automotive industry, which she had not done prior to the day. Catching the imagination of young girls before they’ve made a decision about which industry they’d like to pursue a career, is part of the UK Automotive 30% Club’s goal… it seems like after 3 years the strategy is working.

Research and data bias put women’s lives at risk

Anne de Kerckhove, Freespee’s CEO, introduced Caroline Criado-Perez, author of the Royal Society Science Prize winning book ‘Invisible Women: Exposing data bias in a world designed for men’. Anne has a long standing commitment to her passion of helping, supporting and mentoring female professionals and so was keen to interview Criado-Perez about her latest book.

During her presentation Criado-Perez revealed some shocking facts that showcase data bias as the world has been designed for ‘Reference Man’ – the default ‘man’ – who is 70kg, caucasian and male. 

Speaking to the automotive industry in particular, the author explained that the use of male dummies to test the impact of seat-belts puts women in a vulnerable situation – they are 73% more likely to be seriously or fatally injured in car accidents.

Since 2011, some car manufacturers have started using female dummies for these type of tests, which has decreased the security rating of cars that used to be rated higher until then. Criado-Perez finished her talk by requesting the automotive industry to start designing seat-belts that are adapted to women, as well as a pregnancy seat belt.

30% is the baseline, not the target. And we’ll only achieve 30% with support and sponsorship from male professionals.

Achieving diversity in the workforce is not a responsibility that relies solely on female professionals. For it to succeed it needs the support and involvement of their male counterparts.

Diversity, as it was made clear during the event, does not only involve attracting women to the industry but seeks to promote ethnic diversity too.

This year’s event was hosted and sponsored by AutoTrader, the leading automotive marketplace in the UK, who is committed to bringing change to the industry and their organization. They have a powerful and strong female presence in their leading positions and a forward-thinking CEO designate, Nathan Coe, who is leading by example; taking days off to take his children to sports activities or staying home when they are sick.

Driving change requires a joint effort. During this annual gathering it was inspiring to see so many male and female professionals committed to driving the change required to achieve diversity in the work space.