Women’s Day has just passed by and every brand under the sun put up a customary woman’s day post. Now that the women’s day fervor has ended and the dust has settled, we thought of taking a closer look at how women are doing in the automotive industry.

Is Automotive Industry a Boy’s Club?

It’s quite fair to say that the automotive industry is still a boy’s club with just about 2% of the global automotive mechanics and tradespeople being women. And if we talk about our home, around 2.5% of our automotive tradespeople are women. And while the pandemic pushed a lot of women to enter traditionally male-dominated industries, the automotive industry doesn’t seem to have changed a lot.

Call it conditioning or anything you like, but whenever we hear the words – mechanic, we instinctively picture a man.  The thought of going to a female mechanic or female auto dealer is still quite unfathomable to a lot of us.

Not just that, the industry hasn’t yet fully accepted women even as consumers. There are tons of statistics to show that more women are buying cars now. But when you look at the car ads, that’s not what you see. Take an advertisement of any car brand and it will reek of machoism. Most of these ads are highly masculine and lack proper female representation.

And this isn’t something that just big brands do, go to any car dealership to buy a car or go to a mechanic for a car repair and see how they treat you. They will either ignore you or infantilize you. These kinds of stereotypes are one of the biggest reasons lesser women step into this man’s world.

Where are the Women at?

I know not everything is bleak. Things are gradually changing for the better. Women like Marry Barra (CEO, GM) and Elena Ford (Chief Customer Experience Officer, Ford) have been able to shatter the metaphorical glass ceiling and hold top positions in the automotive industry.  But unfortunately, these examples are few and far between. According to the latest figures, only 8% of the executives in the top 20 automotive companies are women.

Brands like Audi, Volvo and Mazda Australia have been actively trying to fix the gender gap in their workforce for many years now. Organizations like Women in Automotive have been established to support and encourage women in the automotive industry.

Women in Automotive Industry                                                                                              Women in Automotive Industry

And due to all these efforts, today women represent around 20% of the Australian automotive industry. But those are mostly white-collar roles. The percentage of women working as mechanics, tradespeople and technicians is still less than 3%.

This brings us to an important question

Why are there not Enough Women in Automotive Industry?

When a lot of automotive companies are taking initiatives to attract women employees, why is it not reflected in the numbers? What are the reasons that prevent women from being a part of this industry? Is it a lack of opportunity or a lack of skills and initiative?

In 2019, Delloite surveyed women to find out the underlying reasons for this painfully visible gender gap in the automotive industry. Here are the top reasons according to these women.

 

Reasons

Percentage of Women
Unappealing environment65%
Lack of Work/Life Balance59%
Lack of Flexibility46%
Lack of Advancement opportunities39%
The perceived caliber of people35%

Source:  Delloite Insights

A University of Sydney survey had similar findings.

Negative work environment: Around 50% of the female automotive tradespeople surveyed, said that their work environment didn’t promote gender equality. Around 24% said they faced sexual harassment at work while 43% reported being subject to offensive language or behaviour owing to their gender.

Flexibility in work schedule: Only 19% of respondents said that their employers would allow a flexible work schedule while an alarming 51% believed that asking for a flexible work schedule or part-time work could hamper their career advancement opportunities.

A feeling of marginalization was also found in the majority of these respondents. It should then not come as a surprise that women are not very keen on joining the automotive industry despite there being a huge shortage of skilled mechanics and technicians.

There’s also enough anecdotal evidence to point out that women mechanics and tradespeople aren’t taken seriously both by the industry and the customers. The negative and sexist attitude and mentality of people towards women in the automotive industry is quite frankly the biggest barrier.

So, what’s the way forward?

Women in Automotive Industry Women in Automotive Industry

The Way Forward

Creating more opportunities for women mechanics, technicians and tradespeople is definitely something we collectively need to work towards. However, there’s enough evidence to show that alone isn’t enough.

While it certainly helps, we need a lot more than teaching them the skills and offering them the jobs. We need to create a safe and positive work environment for these women. There’s a need to educate the general public and gradually shift their attitude towards women mechanics and tradespeople. Another important factor would be closing the staggering gender pay gap. The automotive industry is one of those industries which is perceived to have a huge gender pay gap. And unless the gap is closed, women wouldn’t be motivated to join the automotive workforce.

Having a diverse workforce is good for automotive companies as well. And there’s a lot of untapped talent which could be a game-changer for these companies. If employers tweak their work environment and become a little more flexible, they can attract more women technicians.

In a nutshell, although a lot of companies are trying to attract more women, we still have a long way to go and unless there’s an attitudinal shift, the goal can’t be achieved.

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