A study that showed progress in advancing female representation in Canada’s automotive retail workforce slowed dramatically in 2020 is the result of the pandemic and not necessarily indicative of where the sector is headed, according to the study’s lead author and industry representatives.
The survey found only 39 per cent of women in the industry saw positive change and 35 per cent said diversity was worse compared to findings in a 2015 study.
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Lorrie King, Ontario marketplace leader for Deloitte, who conducted the study, said the survey was done in September 2020, at the height of workplace disruption caused by the pandemic, which hit women particularly hard as they struggled to meet the demands of families forced home from school and work.
“We also think that five years ago, people had a rosy outlook, and so when things don’t come together the way you expect, or you don’t see changes that you expected, you become more negative,” she said during the Automotive News Canada Leading Women roundtable Oct. 26.
Sue Gubasta, CEO of Mississauga Toyota, echoed King’s refusal to see the survey results as a trend, saying there’s been improvement in diversity since the 2015 study, but she did say the industry has to continue to promote itself as a career destination for women.
“I would like to think we have done a better job within those five years,” she said. “I think one of the problems our industry has is there is still this image problem… so I think we need to do a better job of encouraging people to look at the car industry and to have better awareness.”
Joyce Tshiamala, district manager of customer experience for Hyundai Auto Canada, which sponsored the roundtable, said a key to driving women representation in the industry is recruiting what she called male allies, men, such as her boss, Hyundai Canada CEO Don Romano, to foster greater acceptance throughout a company’s leadership.
“If you look throughout history at feminist advancements… all of this was made possible because a group of men chose to stand up and leverage their male privilege to advocate for women,” she said.
Jessica Hammett, service technician apprentice at Maple Hyundai in Woodbridge, Ont., said the key to success as a woman in service is having a manager willing to turn away business rather than submit to customer prejudice.
“So, I had one gentleman say straight to my face, ‘I don’t really want her working on my car.’ My manager kind of sat him down and said, ‘All right, well, if you have a problem with her working on your car, I don’t believe anybody here should,’” she said. “Having that support behind you has really made quite a difference.”