Change starts at the top.
And the recent appointments of Bev Goodman and Eva Wiese to steer the Canadian units of Ford Motor Co. and Mercedes-Benz AG, respectively, are a step in the right direction toward attaining gender equity in the auto industry.
Goodman and Wiese aren’t the first women to occupy the C-suite at Canadian carmakers. That honour goes to leaders such as Dianne Craig, Ford Canada CEO from 2011 to 2016, and pioneer Maureen Kempston Darkes, GM Canada CEO from 1994 to 2001.
With the exception of Maria Stenström, who steered Volkswagen Canada from 2013 to 2017, women have been virtually absent of late from the upper echelons of Canada’s auto sector.
Even Mary Barra’s groundbreaking promotion as CEO of General Motors Co. in 2014 did little to jolt the industry out of its state of male-dominated complacency.
But — to quote the old adage — a change is in the wind. And propelled by both the #MeToo and Black Lives Matter movements, it appears to be gaining strength.
Employers are waking up to the realization that they are guilty of hiring practices that have long favoured white men; and to effect meaningful change means implementing measures designed to reverse decades of exclusion within their factories, boardrooms and high-tech centres.
Manufacturers that have taken a deliberate and targeted approach toward bolstering their female ranks have achieved promising results. Honda Canada Mfg. boosted the proportion of women in entry-level positions to 29 per cent from 15.5 per cent over the last three years, thanks to a recruitment program that, in part, takes prospective female employees on a tour of the company’s plants.
At Hyundai Canada, the automaker recently enacted a series of measures, including the use of artificial intelligence, to weed out unintended bias in its hiring practices.
“Our executive ranks are not going to look anything like they look today,” Hyundai President Don Romano declared in a story in the July 2020 issue.
“They’re going to look more like what our customer base looks like, which isn’t a bunch of old white guys like me.”
That’s why the corporate ascensions of Bev Goodman and Eva Wiese, industry veterans with impressive resumes, are critical and timely. They come as the industry, embattled by the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, teeters on the brink of revolutionary change. And they are powerful reminders that where there’s a will, there’s a way to recruit capable, accomplished women for the industry’s top jobs.