According to a report commissioned by the European Commission men account for 70% of those employed in the automotive sector in the EU, while in the UK in particular the figure is closer to 74%. Here we flip the statistics somewhat and take a look at the experience of some of the women who are helping to drive change within the industry.
Asked to name professions which are considered to be male dominated and most of us could easily generate a sizeable list - the military, engineering, construction - even medicine - all come to mind. Equally, throughout time these perceptions have been challenged largely in response to a specific need or a shifting dynamic. During WW1 and WW2 women took on challenging yet crucial roles, making a massive contribution to the war effort - working in munitions factories, driving fire engines, building tanks and ships to name just a few jobs.
Almost 100 years later and the baton has been neatly passed from Great-Grandmothers to Grandaughters. In 2015 we can see certainly see changes – more women than ever are working in male dominated professions – most of us will have visited a female GP, or even been flown by a female pilot. While it is easy to look over our shoulder at how far we have come, how do we measure the road ahead?
According to research by graduate-jobs.com female graduates are increasingly seeking careers in male dominated sectors. Indeed analysis of the career preferences of nearly 600,000 graduate job-seekers over the last decade shows that more female graduates are looking to work in job sectors such as Engineering; Utilities (eg Energy and Telecoms); and Manufacturing and Production.
The UK Government however believes more can still be done to level the playing field and has recently launched a campaign called #notjustforboys. Spearheading the campaign is Employment Minister Esther McVey who commented: “I want to see more women make the most of the future growth and job opportunities in what once may have been considered non-traditional roles – so young children won't only know about Bob the Builder, but Becky the Builder, his workmate too"
Against this backdrop what are the experiences of women working within the automotive industry – surely one of the most male dominated of them all? Below we shine a light on three women who work within the Lookers Group. In their own words, they tell us what it's really like.
Liz is married to Simon and lives in Milton Keynes. They both love their holidays and have recently returned from a coastal tour of Norway where amongst other 'arctic activities' such as snowmobiling, they were lucky enough to see the Northern Lights in all their glory. Liz joined Lookers in July 2014.
Customer service has underpinned the whole of Liz's career - from High Street retail through to corporate sales, account management and logistics.
Her most recent position was to manage the dealer network for Arval UK and through this role she became familiar with the Lookers Group.
Being a "self-confessed perfectionist, driven by attention to detail" Liz has undergone intense professional training over the years, “to fine tune both personal and professional skills". This has included studying sales techniques, project management, team building and business operations.
As a result Liz is energetic and motivated when it comes to delivering the demanding service levels required within the Fleet sector.
“We have a plan to significantly grow our Fleet business at Lookers. Good communication and account management is vital and business is often won or lost on reliability, consistency and quality of service. I am working with our National Fleet Sales team, Fleet Dealers and outsourced logistics agents to ensure we deliver the best quality service for our Fleet customers"
Displaying her head for business, Liz is focussed on significantly growing Lookers' presence within the Fleet market “with the right tools and measurements to track our progress and our strong leadership, we are motivated as a team and know we will be successful."
Liz is pragmatic and insightful when it comes to working within the automotive industry: “although it may be male dominated that can be said of many other industries too, so there is no escaping it. I feel that good business is about good team work and women bring a good balance to a male dominated environment including some softer people skills, strength, tenacity and an alternative emotional intelligence that can otherwise be missing."
While the number of women currently within the automotive industry has a long way to go to match the number of men, in-roads are being made by many talented and determined women such as Chelsea, Liz and Sarah.
The increase in female-run garages, female car executives (including Ford Europe's Barb Samardizich) and female car dealers hints at a future where women can truly be considered equal in every sense. This will not happen in isolation but will develop through a combination of resolute women, inclusive recruitment policies, and a societal shift that does not make a woman feel out of place while doing a job normally considered to be exclusively for men.
In 2015 the statistics tell us that, on average, 26% of jobs within the automotive industry are held by women. Barb Samardizich sums it up best “ I'd say there's still a way for us to go before people stop talking about the gender of the person - as long as you've got to talk about it, we're probably not there yet. Ultimately the industry is best served by the best people in whatever roles. So capability needs to be the best judge."