The automotive sector is a vital part of the UK economy and integral to supporting the delivery of both the levelling up and net zero agendas. It employs 780,000 people, is a dynamic industry full of challenges and different job roles, and continually evolves.
However, one area it stands to improve is gender diversity. Whilst women make up over half of the total workforce in the UK, that figure drops to around a quarter within the automotive industry. This number drops even further if we were to look at women in senior leadership roles. Unfortunately, the automotive industry is, on the whole, still largely male-dominated.
There’s no doubt that there is a long way to go in terms of the automotive industry’s diversity and representation, but it’s not all doom and gloom. There are incredible women, organisations, and initiatives making a real difference in the diversity agenda in the UK automotive industry. So, what is being done, and how can the industry think outside the box to help?
Get the message across
Encouraging a diverse workforce is a complex task but vital to the industry’s future. To start with, we need to fix the narrative of what working in the sector is actually like, demonstrate that its masculine reputation is unwarranted and that it isn’t simply a boy’s club but rather an industry with a bright and exciting future, and a variety of different job roles which have incredible career and learning opportunities.
A great way to go about this is to use your internal communications channels so that diverse groups can meet within a safe space with others from the business with a shared interest in furthering this agenda. It’s also important that break-out groups have support from the business and an avenue to have opinions and suggestions heard more widely. Businesses can further support groups by inviting speakers or guests from various backgrounds to help garner different perspectives, voices, and ways of approaching diversity. Building and promoting networks of support is something that we know works.
Put the pedal to the metal
Fail to plan, and you plan to fail. The best diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) approaches are implemented with a clear purpose. Well-planned projects make a far more lasting impact, so companies need to work to ensure plans are viable and have clearly agreed goals. Once this is done, it’s time to visualise the chequered flag and put the pedal to the metal.
Luckily, several organisations, networks, and groups help to support women and diverse groups to break through the barriers that have encumbered them for too long. Work with these groups to encourage those to roles within the industry that might have otherwise felt were unattainable or unsuitable.
Working with dedicated organisations that have the resources and expertise to support DE&I transformation can be the catalyst for companies that want to see change but don’t know how to get there. But, as well as looking for help from experts outside of the industry, it’s also worth all of us within the automotive industry working more effectively together. That way, we can learn from each other’s successes and mistakes. Only then will we have the impact we want to see.
At Keyloop, we strive for equal representation across our workforce. We are proud that almost half (45%) of our leaders at an executive level are now women, and over a third (35%) of our senior leaders are female. Across the company, women represent 32% of the workforce. Yes, we still have a way to go, but we’re proud of the progress that we’ve made.
Bold action is needed
Although the business case for DE&I is stronger than ever, progress has stalled for many in the automotive industry. A systematic approach and bold action are needed. Remember, DE&I is not just about numbers but about cultural change.
To create a truly inclusive work environment for employees from all walks of life – encompassing everything from gender and race to disability and neurodiversity – organisations need to live and breathe change. Plus, it’s important that there is a feedback loop in place so that employees can be honest and open about what is being done right and what needs to be better. That way, you can continually review the culture and processes to ensure they have a positive impact.
It is never easy to shift the status quo. Yet, through openness, cooperation, and dedicated action, we can all push the automotive industry forward and encourage more women into the industry we love.
Charlotte de Metz is the Chief People Officer at Keyloop.