Placing gender on the automotive agenda

Think you can respond to automotive industry volatility without gender diversity? Think again.

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Digitization, regulations, evolving customer needs and new competitors are only a few of the disruptive trends changing the business landscape in the automotive industry. As companies seek to prepare for ongoing volatility, they face challenges in executing operational and technology initiatives, and securing the skills, knowledge and mindsets they’ll need to position themselves for the future.

To navigate this current era of disruption successfully, automotive organizations will need to draw from a diverse pool of talent that brings a wide range of opinions, ideas and experiences.

Yet women in the auto industry in the US make up only slightly more than a quarter of the total workforce, compared with the national average of almost half. In senior and managerial positions in the auto industry, the share of women in the US fell from 17% in 2009 to 16% in 2013.

EY - Respond to industry volatility without gender diversity

So what can automotive companies do to accelerate gender parity within their industry, particularly at the leadership level?

In late 2015, EY interviewed 350 C-suite leaders from 51 countries and across six industries, including 50 leaders from the automotive sector (32 men, 18 women). And we asked them about how businesses are addressing gender diversity and disruption.

Automotive leaders overwhelmingly recognize that diversity of thought and experience are crucial for success. They also recognize that diversity improves performance — both financial and non-financial.

However, although companies admit that they need greater diversity, and that they face challenges in attracting women to the industry, they lack any appetite to make the changes  needed.

EY - Respond to industry volatility without gender diversity

How five disconnects are stifling innovation and competitive advantage in automotive

Based on the results of our research, we have identified five disconnects that are holding automotive businesses back from achieving gender diversity in leadership positions and on their boards.

  • The reality disconnect

    Think automotive companies are close to reaching gender parity at a senior leadership level? Think again

    Automotive business leaders believe that the gender diversity problem is nearly solved, despite little progress within their own companies.

    EY - Respond to industry volatility without gender diversity

    “I think, in the past, men did a lot of networking during work as well as outside of the job. That may still be the culture, but it is not as dominant as it once was.”

    Anke Kleinschmit, Vice President Group Research & Sustainability, Chief Environmental Officer, Daimler AG
  • The pipeline disconnect

    Think automotive companies have structured formal programs to identify and develop women’s careers in leadership? Think again

    A majority of automotive companies believe the sector is facing a looming talent crisis. Yet few are taking the action required around gender diversity to address it.

    EY - Respond to industry volatility without gender diversity

    “There are tremendous opportunities for talented women in the automotive industry today. The time is right for women to lean in, step up and compete for any role for which they are qualified and aspire to.”

    Janet Barnard, President, Manheim North America
  • The perception disconnect

    Think women believe that raising a family creates a barrier to reaching senior leadership? Think again

    Men and women don’t see the need for gender diversity the same way. In fact, there is a significant gap between what women find valuable in helping them attain leadership positions and what men think women would find most valuable.

    Similarly, there is a significant difference between what women and what men see as the barriers to women reaching the top.

    EY - Respond to industry volatility without gender diversity

    “I look forward to the day when we no longer have to say, ‘She's the first.’ That’s when society — and people — will have moved on.”

    Birgit Behrendt, Vice President, Global Programs & Purchasing Operations, Ford Motor Company
  • The data disconnect

    Think automotive companies are effectively measuring their progress on gender diversity? Think again

    Automotive companies are not effectively measuring their progress on gender diversity. More companies need to measure progress. After all, what gets measured, gets managed.

    EY - Respond to industry volatility without gender diversity
  • The progress disconnect

    Think a majority of automotive companies offer leadership programs exclusively for women? Think again

    Business leaders overwhelmingly believe that diversity of thought and experience will be crucial to navigating the challenges of disruption. However, sectors are making uneven progress toward gender parity.

    Here’s how automotive compares with other industries:

    EY - Respond to industry volatility without gender diversity

Act now to close the gender gap

Automotive companies need to take decisive action if they want to thrive amid a future of volatility and disruption. Every business leader is in a position to act now to make gender parity a reality — faster.

Three actions for companies

  1. Include more women in the leadership pipeline
  2. Encourage senior leaders to become sponsors
  3. Create a culture of diversity and inclusion

Three actions for women

  1. Seek mentors
  2. Expand your network
  3. Take charge of your career and set your own priorities

Three actions for men

  1. Become a mentor or sponsor
  2. Make networking opportunities more inclusive
  3. Check for bias in your decision-making

A recent World Economic Forum report suggests that it will take 117 years to reach gender parity on boards. We would never wait this long to adopt any other business opportunity with so much potential. Why wait on this one?

“My advice to younger women? Even if you are the only woman in the room, which sadly many times we still are, you don’t have to do it alone. There are a lot of people around you that want to help. You just have to go ask.”

Janet Barnard, President, Manheim North America