13 Jul 2024
The voice of the independent garage sector

International Women’s Day 2023: Motor sector reflects

International Women’s Day, which takes place today (Wednesday 8 March 2023) with the tagline #EmbraceEquity has been acknowledged by companies and organisations across the automotive industry.

Last year, figures released by the IMI showed only 19% of employees in automotive retail were women, against a 49%/51% men/women split across other industries. Meanwhile, a 2020 study from Deloitte uncovered that 90% of women and men working in automotive believe that women are under-represented in leadership positions, with 57% of women not perceiving a desirable career path for themselves in the sector. Change is afoot though, with organisations such as the Similarly the Automotive 30% Club leading the charge. Established by Julia Muir, its aim to create a stronger gender balance within the industry, and get it to the point where at least 30% of key leadership positions in member organisations are held by women by 2030.

25 by 25
Looking to get five years ahead of the curve, LKQ Euro Car Parts used the platform of International Women’s Day to commit to having 25% of its workforce being female by the end of 2025. The ‘25 by 25’ commitment was launched at an event for LKQ Euro Car Parts staff today, hosted by Helen Robinson, LKQ Euro Car Parts’ Corporate Communications Director for UK and Ireland, and featuring keynote speaker, Ije McDougall, Founder of The Kairos Initiative and a magistrate and a HR/employment law expert.

Donna Fearnley, Group HR Director at LKQ Euro Car Parts, said: “25 by 25 is an important part of our focus on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, and our mission to create an equal and equitable environment where the best people can bring their full selves to work. Increasing gender diversity is just one of the important issues we’re tackling as part of this.”

CEO Andy Hamilton and CFO Annick Jourdenais are patrons of the Automotive 30% Club. Donna added: “A key challenge we have identified is unconscious bias, which is especially evident in the use of gendered language – without malintent – between colleagues. This something we’re exploring as part of a new research project in 2023.Recent data from Deloitte suggested that 40% of women working in automotive would choose a different industry if they were starting their career again. Key players like us have a collective responsibility to get the bottom of why, and to create an equal and equitable automotive industry that women can excel in.”

Keen advocate
Meanwhile, Glen Callum Associates (GCA) are continually highlighting the benefits of a balanced workforce. Kerrie Richards, Director at Glen Callum Associates, said: “International Women’s Day provides an ideal opportunity for companies to continue to move forward with equality and inclusion and encourage the changes needed to embrace the positive value of gender diversity within a workforce.”

According to Kerrie, many companies are missing out on various attributes that a diverse team can bring: “A dynamic and innovative business is usually evolved from a dynamic and innovative workforce. Broadly speaking, men and women are shaped by different life experiences. In turn these different experiences give them different perspectives, which furthermore encourages different ideas.”
According to statistics compiled by the 30% Club, a company that has women on their board is more profitable than a company with only men on the board. Kerrie continued: “The stats don’t lie; if businesses don’t embrace the benefits of a gender balanced workforce, they are missing out on innovative ideas, lower staff turnover and profitability.”

Seeing someone like themselves helps women, according to GCA Senior Recruitment Consultant Kayleigh Bradley: “Women are more likely to apply for roles if they see themselves represented. As potential employees are increasingly checking out social channels and website pages before applying for a job, companies need to ensure these channels promote diversity and show the achievements of all genders within the business.”
As part of this advice, GCA is encouraging companies to be transparent with a role’s salary.

To support this, a study by LinkedIn revealed that women are more likely to submit a job application if the salary is advertised, while the Harvard Business Review has suggested that keeping job adverts concise and only including ‘must haves’ could encourage more applicants.

Kayleigh continued: “78% of women’s reasons for not applying have to do with believing that the job qualifications are real requirements, and seeing the hiring process as more by-the-book and true to the on-paper guidelines than it really is.’ If a company’s structure allows, and if employees are delivering results, then why not introduce a performance-based and flexible culture instead of a strict office based 9-5, and ensure your adverts promote this?”
Kerrie concluded: “Diversity, equality and inclusion is a constant and evolving process, and this is why celebrating and encouraging a workforce to embrace differences and to see the positives of gender balance is very important in any business. Let’s celebrate International Women’s Day and use the opportunity to promote ongoing diversity within a business.”

Perfect opportunity
NFDA CEO Sue Robinson is a longstanding leader in the automotive industry. She observed: “International Women’s Day presents the perfect opportunity to address one of the key imperfections of the automotive industry, the gender divide. Whilst there is a stark difference in numbers between male and female employees in the automotive industry, NFDA strives to connect retailers with the same vision through initiatives such as Drive My Career, embrace equity in their recruitment strategies and diversify the future skills force of the sector.”

In 2018, NFDA launched its Drive My Career employment initiative along with HR representatives from motor retailers across the UK. The campaign aims to change the perception of the automotive industry, inform and educate young people on the viable and successful career paths that are available.

Sue, who joined the Automotive 30% Club in January, continued: “Initiatives such as Drive My Career and the Automotive 30% Club are essential to promoting the sector as an inclusive and diverse workplace, with one of its main objectives to make the automotive retail sector more attractive to young women who want to start their careers.”

“Young females may not initially consider motor retailing as their first option for a career, given that the sector is still predominantly a male-dominated environment and misconceptions of the industry remain. However, we are constantly seeing progressive changes, franchised dealers are offering equal opportunities and employing more talented females. It was particularly reassuring to see during National Apprenticeship Week many young females endorsing their apprenticeship experiences and recommending a career in automotive to peers.”

She added: “I believe in equal opportunity for all, and it is important to not see gender when looking for a new employee, but look for determination and resilience. Franchised dealers have recently made huge improvements in ensuring opportunities are available equally to everyone and trying to attract more diverse employees to their dealerships. However, I still believe there is work to be done to make sure any negative perceptions are eradicated.”