Two years ago Ennis & Co organised a ‘Women in Automotive’ conference in London which set the tone for a diversity debate which continues with vigour today.
Supported by Aston Martin, around 90 senior female executives from the industry shared ideas about how to attract more women at all levels into the automotive sector. That event led to the creation of a number of working groups and directly our automotive talent conference in April hosted by Toyota. It is good to see that the ripples from our agenda-setting work are now spreading even wider.
Citroen’s global boss Linda Jackson has, for example, been named the most powerful British woman in the motor industry. The Paris-based chief executive of the giant French car-maker was the highest ranked female executive in Auto Express’s ‘Brit List 2016’ league table of most influential movers and shakers The Coventry-born executive who started her career with Rover, took 2nd place in the top-50 list of men and women combined. Jaguar Land Rover global communications director Fiona Pargeter was ranked 25th, Land Rover Evoque programme director Danella Bagnall was in 42nd place, and Williams F1 deputy team principal Claire Williams in 45th place. Overall top spot went to Bedfordshire-born Briton Mike Manley as chief executive of iconic American off-roader firm Jeep.
Now Autocar, in conjunction with the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), will publish its own list of the top 100 women in the UK automotive industry at the inaugural ‘Great British Women in the Car Industry’ event on 8 July 2016 at the SMMT’s London headquarters. It will feature a keynote speech by Ford of Europe’s vice president and chief operating officer Barb Samardzich. The event aims to encourage more women into the automotive industry and to help them progress once in it.
Autocar editorial director, Jim Holder, said: ‘Only 9% of the UK’s engineering workforce is female, the lowest percentage in Europe, and less than 16% of engineering and technology undergraduates are women.’
Elsewhere the ‘30% Club’ aims to have a minimum of 30% women on FTSE-350 boards by 2020 (currently at 22.2%), and to reach a minimum of 30% women on Executive Committees (currently at circa 15%) by the same date. Within the motor industry, the club’s Automotive working group aims to fill at least 30% of key leadership positions in our organisations with women, from junior management to board level.
There’s a lot of goodwill. But action must follow fine words to increase diversity in the workplace – not just in the boardroom. That means bringing more people from outside the automotive industry into key roles, boosting opportunity through education at school and college and recruitment policy, and creating ambassadorial ‘champions’ to highlight the need for more women in the workplace.