Women in the Industry
By Alex Ricciuti
There have been some recent articles in the European press, most notably one that ran in Automotive News Europe a few weeks ago, that have noted the scarcity of female executives in the European auto industry. In this regard, the U.S. auto industry far outpaces the European car makers as there are numerous female auto executives in various positions at the Big 3. Not so in Europe.
Having covered the European auto industry for over 3 years, I know well about the dearth of female executives. The only female directors or executives that I have interviewed have been the ones that represent dealer groups or dealer councils in Europe. I don’t think I’ve interviewed a single female executive at an automaker in all of that time.
Sure, there are plenty of women in the press departments and who work as assistants to the executives but the industry really should make an effort to recruit more female engineers and find female business leaders to groom for executive positions.
There may be cultural factors that lead to women being less attracted by the motor industry than men. But automakers can and should overcome this by developing recruitment and education programs that specifically seek out and train women for a career in the automotive sector.
And one need not have to justify this by any other reasoning other than it is the right thing to do. Period. Maybe gender diversity in the top ranks and in the board rooms will lead automakers to champion a broader economic and social agenda and be better global corporate citizens. Maybe female consumers will be more likely to buy a brand headed by a female executive. Maybe, but the only other good reason besides the moral one of gender equality is the practical one of untapped talent that is out there.
A few years back Volvo got some press when a team of women engineers created a car ‘for women’. I don’t like this notion of women designing cars for female consumers. It seems patronizing. More women should just simply be designing cars, making cars, marketing cars and leading car companies. Do some models have more female drivers than male? Yes. And if an automaker thinks they can have a competitive advantage by having that model designed or marketed by a female staff, then great. But don’t segregate the process so readily.
There is a whole pool of untapped talent out there when so few women work in the industry. I believe the companies that get in there early and recruit those women will have a great advantage simply because they have greater access to talent than their competitors. Those new female executives will help provide better notions of what the market and individual consumers (both female and male) want, because the companies that hire them will naturally be more reflective of the market they seek to sell to.
Alex Ricciuti is a freelance writer and automotive journalist based in Zurich, Switzerland. He writes frequently for Automotive News Europe.
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