This International Women’s Day, Urika Rikhi, Senior Account Executive for BMW Group at Zone, takes a look at the obstacles faced by women in the UK’s #automotive industry and how the sector can #EmbraceEquity.
Before we take a look into embracing equity in the automotive sector, it’s important to understand the difference between equity and equality, as these terms are often used interchangeably. Equality is to provide the same resources equally among all individuals whereas equity is understanding individuals’ circumstances and providing them the resources needed to reach an equal outcome and achieve their highest potential.
Lately, gender diversity in the workplace has been discussed quite a lot, and emphasis has been placed on the responsibility of business stakeholders, including those in the automotive industry.
According to Road & Travel Magazine, 95% of automobile purchase is influenced by women, and 65% of automotive purchases are made by women. Yet, only 20% of the workforce in the automotive industry comprises women, with even less in engineering and manufacturing roles and senior positions. The statistics comes as no surprise, as the automotive and manufacturing industry has always been male-dominated.
The issue of gender inequity in the automotive sector
Low representation of women in the automotive sector itself is a big problem. As 80% of the workforce are males, women can feel overwhelmed and uncomfortable sharing their opinion or speaking their thoughts, which makes them side-lined easily. There is also the notion that women are not petrol-headed or tech-savvy and their decisions are driven by emotions, so opportunities are taken away from them based on these stereotypes.
As the progression of women’s careers in this sector is continuously challenged by perceptions and unintentional biases, some women tend to change their careers and move to a different industry, thus increasing the gender imbalance even further. Often it has been observed that women tend to get less challenging assignments than their male counterparts, hindering their growth and career development.
Another issue plaguing the sector is as women are underrepresented majority of the time their opinions and thoughts aren’t taken seriously, which also impacts automotive organisations negatively as they fail to properly utilise the talent base they have.
Why is gender equity important?
Why are we discussing gender equity in the automotive industry? What impact will it have? Well, gender equity not only impacts the growth of the automotive industry as they fail to tap into the right balance of talent pool, but also affects society negatively by creating imbalanced equity by ignoring a significant half of the population.
To create a better future, it is very important to create a balance between all genders, bringing equity into the equation. Embracing gender equity will also help in strengthening the economies worldwide. Today companies have realised the importance of gender equality at workplace but they are yet to embrace equity amongst workforces by giving individuals the right opportunities and environment to grow, which will benefit both employees and employers.
Gender equity will open the stage to have more balanced, unique, and inclusive decisions. With diverse mindsets, embracing changes in the automotive industry will become easier. It will also encourage more women to consider a career in the automotive sector.
What can be done to help drive gender equity?
Embracing equity is a long-term process and will require everyone’s effort, in and outside the workplace, to implement it successfully. Automotive companies have a bigger role to play; they need to realise how important it is to adopt equity for employee well-being, retention and career growth, Many organisations today have started taking steps towards diversity in the workplace but it is crucial for them to analyse whether it has been implemented efficiently or not and if it is actually driving change.
It has been reported numerous times that women in the automotive sector aren’t supplied sufficient information on how they can progress further in their organisation. Often, they have been given projects that require very basic skillsets limiting their opportunities to grow and further their learning; Thus, translating women’s underrepresentation in senior roles. Organisations need to find ways to make women feel part of the team by understanding their skillsets rather than side-lining them. They need to analyse what is happening at ground level to get the complete picture of expectation versus reality.
Along with companies, colleges and educational institutions also need to champion gender equity. Academicians should encourage women to take up a career in the automotive sector, and share information with them. Business schools and colleges can partner with automotive companies to create a particular course or hold seminars to enable women to participate and understand career options in the automotive sector.
Women currently working in the automotive sector should act as ambassadors for those pursuing their career in this field by sharing their experience and knowledge. They can also incite positive change within organisations by discussing the problems they face and provide their opinions on how they can be improved for the future women of the industry,. I also feel women need to believe in themselves and ask for equity in situations where it lacks and be vocal about their expectations.
Together we can make this world more inclusive for all and together we can bring change quicker.