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Women are significantly underrepresented in the motor industry with 19% of the national workforce being female, new research from the Institute of the Motor Industry reveals. There’s currently an 10:2 industry ratio of males to females, highlighting the gender differences across all roles, from leadership positions and instore dealers to racers.

Lack of women in senior roles 

The second annual ‘Making Diversity and Inclusion a Business Reality’ report highlights the lack of women in leadership roles. Specifically, the lack of women, not only in senior roles making key decisions, but also in dealerships is a large factor behind people’s poor impressions of the automotive industry. 94% of women said they don’t trust car dealerships, and 13% of women have uncomfortable in-store experiences due to lack of saleswomen. Auto Trader’s manufacturer and agency director, Rebecca Clark, emphasises the importance of getting more women into the industry: “All of the data shows that retailers that represent the communities in which they serve provide a better, and more profitable, in-dealership experience for their customers.''

Women behind the wheel

As for women behind the wheel, Maria Costello is a notable example of a successful woman in the industry. Costello is a British motorcycle racer who held the Guinness World Record for the fastest woman to lap the Isle of Man TT course at 114.73 mph average per lap. Riding a Honda RVF400, Costello was also the first solo woman to stand on the podium for the Manx Grand Prix in 2005 placing third in the ultra-lightweight category. She also won a total of 7 Manx Prix Silver replicas and a Bronze TT Replica. Costello hopes to inspire women to take up motorcycling and road racing and speaks at schools and careers events to encourage them to take up the sport.

Advice for women

At the recent Women Automotive Summit in Germany, high-profile female car industry leaders shared advice on how women can succeed in the industry. Collaborating with other women (rather than competing) is key. “We need to be better advocates to help ourselves, we need to take the competition out, I think we are our own worst enemy,” said Helen Emsley, executive director of design at General Motors. Mentorship is also an important tool to help women step outside their comfort zones and grow. 

New technology also opens up potential roles for women. Electric cars are creating a demand for graduates with new skill sets. This industry shift from hardware to software can encourage women to have successful careers in a male dominated industry.