“International Women’s Day presents the perfect opportunity to address one of the key imperfections of the automotive industry, the gender divide. Whilst there is a stark difference in numbers between male and female employees in the automotive industry, NFDA strives to connect retailers with the same vision through initiatives such as Drive My Career, embrace equity in their recruitment strategies and diversify the future skills force of the sector,” said Sue Robinson, Chief Executive of the National Franchised Dealers Association (NFDA) on International Women’s Day (8 March 2023).

The theme of this year's International Women's Day is to #EmbraceEquity. Not to be confused with equality which implies that everyone is given equal opportunities; Equity recognizes that everyone has unique circumstances and therefore allocates exact opportunities to enable the individual to achieve an equal outcome.

Recent research suggests that the automotive industry is still a heavily male-dominated workspace. In 2022, the Institute of Motor Industry (IMI) revealed that in Automotive Retail only 19% of the employees were women, while non-automotive industries offers a far more even spread (49% men and 51% women)[1]. Similarly, research conducted by Deloitte in 2020 revealed that 90% of women and men working in automotive believe that women are under-represented in leadership positions, and 57% of women do not see a career path to get to the level they want in the Automotive Industry[2].

NFDA seeks to address these challenges. In 2018, NFDA launched its employment initiative, Drive My Career, with the HR representatives of leading retailers across the UK. Drive My Career’s mission is to help change the perception of the automotive industry, inform and educate young people on the viable and successful career paths that are available for all people and to directly support its franchised dealer members with their recruitment strategies.

Similarly, the Automotive 30% Club established by Julia Muir with the purpose to achieve a better gender balance within the automotive industry, aiming to employ at least 30% of key leadership positions in member organisations with diverse women by 2030. Sue Robinson joined the Automotive 30% Club in January 2023.

The Automotive Retail sector is diverse and continually evolving, yet perceptions remain that the industry is solely fixing and selling cars. Young people can aspire to work in Customer Service roles, Aftersales, Marketing & Digital Communications, Logistics & Parts Distribution, HR & Recruitment, Technicians, IT & Web Development, Administration, Accounting, Sales; and so much more.

Sue Robinson, Chief Executive of the NFDA, commented:

Initiatives such as Drive My Career and the Automotive 30% Club are essential to promoting the sector as an inclusive and diverse workplace, with one of its main objectives to make the automotive retail sector more attractive to young women who want to start their careers.”

“Young females may not initially consider motor retailing as their first option for a career, given that the sector is still predominantly a male-dominated environment and misconceptions of the industry remain. However, we are constantly seeing progressive changes, franchised dealers are offering equal opportunities and employing more talented females. It was particularly reassuring to see during National Apprenticeship Week many young females endorsing their apprenticeship experiences and recommending a career in automotive to peers.

“I believe in equal opportunity for all, and it is important to not see gender when looking for a new employee, but look for determination and resilience. Franchised dealers have recently made huge improvements in ensuring opportunities are available equally to everyone and trying to attract more diverse employees to their dealerships. However, I still believe there is work to be done to make sure any negative perceptions are eradicated.