TORONTO — Companies must be deliberate in hiring more women and elevating them to executive positions if the auto industry is ever to become more diverse.
That was one of the big takeaways from the 15 executives and officials on Automotive News Canada’s inaugural Leading Women Panel here in November. The two-hour conversation focused on women in the Canadian automotive industry and how the industry can become less male-dominated and more representative of the population at large.
Many of the panelists noted that getting more women into the industry means parents teaching girls from a young age that STEM-based careers and nontraditional career paths are available to them. It also means making mentorship between young women and company executives a top priority, as well as hiring people from outside traditional automotive backgrounds.
But it also means recognizing that hiring more women means being deliberate about doing so. It’s not enough to simply say gender doesn’t matter when hiring people. Companies should always hire the best person for the job, regardless of gender, but they need to make sure that their pool of applicants includes women and that becoming more diverse is an explicit goal.
As you’ll read in this month’s package of stories about the panel on Pages 14 and 15, Cox Automotive Canada CEO Maria Soklis told a story that illustrates this perfectly. Soklis made sure she received an equal number of female applicants for an open position after initially receiving a stack of resumes that were only from men. And she ended up hiring a woman for the role because she was the best person for it.
By making sure that the pool of applicants for a job is diverse — in gender, race and background — companies not only will inevitably become more diverse but their chances of hiring the right person for the job also will increase. Having a diversity of backgrounds is always a good thing for a company or any organization.
I was reminded of an interview comedian Jon Stewart had with Howard Stern in 2017. (Bear with me here.) Stewart talked about reacting negatively to a story by the feminist website Jezebel that criticized “The Daily Show” writers’ room for being a “boys’ club.” A self-described “O.G. feminist,” Stewart thought his show was doing enough by only taking blind submissions for resumes, meaning producers did not know the names or backgrounds of whomever applied to be a writer and were thus judged only by the quality of their comedy writing.
Taken aback, Stewart went back to the writers’ room to complain about the article, only to realize that there was truth to the criticism. The room was dominated by white men of similar backgrounds, typically Ivy League-educated, because the agents who submitted those applications were biased toward them.
It was only when the show deliberately made a point of making sure more women and minorities were among the candidates being considered that the show’s staff became more diverse.
“To change that system takes actual effort,” Stewart said.
The same is true of the automotive industry. If you only look to hire people with traditional automotive backgrounds, the industry’s slow climb toward diversity will never pick up speed. Make a point to diversify your applicant pool. The industry — and your company — will be better off for it.