Talk is cheap. That’s one of the key messages from panelists on Automotive News Canada’s recent Leading Women OEM and retail roundtables.
If the industry is serious about redressing the historic under-representation of women in Canada’s auto industry, it has to take deliberate action.
Employers need to step outside the echo chamber, said Christine Smith, director of marketing at Hyundai Canada.
“When people hire, they tend to hire or bring up people who they know or from their networks,” said Smith, who participated in the online OEM online panel discussion.
Without purposeful change, little disruption will occur in the types of people recruited to fill these roles, she said.
Fellow panelist Jennifer Halleran Dingwall, director of manufacturer partnerships at Scotiabank, credited “dedication and strategy” with boosting the number of female leaders at the financial institution.
“It didn’t happen by chance,” she said.
Scotiabank is also behind a new effort to provide support and networking to young female leaders in auto retailing.
The program, dubbed the Women in Auto Accelerator, links women who are new to roles such as general manager to seasoned industry mentors. These more experienced counterparts have survived the move up the ladder, which can be a precarious climb for women managers working in a male-dominated industry.
Bringing women together to share not only their experiences but also best practices can help reshape an industry in the throes of change. Indeed, technological advances are a potent enabler for more women to enter the automotive sector. Lynne Piette, head of marketing at Volkswagen Canada, cited the tectonic shift to electric and autonomous vehicles as well as software development and digitization.
“It extends beyond the traditional knowledge of torque, horsepower, sales, service — you name it. You’re moving the whole conversation,” she said.
The dealership model is changing as more of the car-buying experience is online. As well, automakers are increasingly eyeing a direct-to-consumer business model, and women are helping finesse the total customer experience, from digital to in-store, Piette said.
The changes enveloping the auto industry have the potential to alter the face of the sector’s work force. And employers who take a deliberate approach to ensuring an inclusive and supportive work environment will successfully ride the wave of disruption.