Improving DE&I in the automotive sector

Charlotte de Metz looks at what we can do to improve diversity within the automotive industry

In the UK, the automotive sector employs 780,000 people. It is a dynamic industry full of challenges and multiple interesting job roles that are vital to the UK economy and integral to supporting the delivery of both the levelling up and net zero agendas. However, it is severely lagging behind in gender diversity. Despite recent efforts, the industry remains, on the whole, hugely male-dominated. The numbers are stark; while women make up around half of the total workforce in the UK, they only make up around 13% of the automotive industry.

It’s not only attracting new talent that is proving difficult but retaining the women already in the automotive workforce. Four in ten (40%) women in the industry say they would choose a different industry if they were starting their careers again.

Fixing the narrative

It is no exaggeration to say that encouraging a more diverse workforce is vital to the future of the automotive industry, and a good starting point is to fix the narrative of what working in the sector is actually like. It’s important to put across that the automotive industry isn’t simply a boy’s club but rather an industry with a bright and exciting future, that boasts a variety of different job roles which have incredible career and learning opportunities.

Well-planned projects make a far more lasting impact than those that are simply cobbled together.

A good way for businesses to start is to use their existing internal communication channels to encourage diverse groups within the business to meet within a safe space to discuss their experiences. It is also important that these groups have support from the business and an avenue to have opinions and suggestions heard more widely. Automotive businesses can further support these groups by inviting relevant speakers from various backgrounds to help ensure different perspectives, voices, and approaches to diversity are heard.

Implementing change with a clear purpose

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) approaches need to be implemented with a clear purpose. Well-planned projects make a far more lasting impact than those that are simply cobbled together. Companies must, therefore, put the work in to ensure plans are viable and have clearly defined goals. Only then can a business visualise the chequered flag and put the pedal to the metal. Luckily, several organisations, networks, and groups help to support women and diverse groups break through the traditional barriers that have encumbered them for too long. By working effectively with these groups, organisations can encourage those to do roles within the industry that might have otherwise felt they were unattainable or unsuitable.

Whilst this can be the catalyst automotive organisations need to facilitate change, as well as looking for expertise from those outside of the industry, the automotive industry should also look within. They should strive to work more effectively together. That way they can learn from each other’s successes and mistakes.

A cultural shift is needed

Although the business case for DE&I is stronger than ever, progress has stalled for many in the automotive industry. The industry needs to do far better in terms of diversity and representation. However, it’s not all doom and gloom. There are incredible women, organisations, and initiatives making a real difference in the diversity agenda in the UK automotive industry.

A systematic approach and bold action are needed. To create a truly inclusive work environment for employees from all walks of life – encompassing everything from gender and race to disability and neurodiversity – organisations need to live and breathe change. A cultural shift is needed. Plus, there must be a feedback loop in place so that employees can be honest and open on what is being done right and what needs to be better. That way you can continually review the culture and processes to ensure they are having a positive impact.

It is never easy to shift the status quo. Yet, through openness, cooperation, and dedicated action we can all push the automotive industry forward and encourage more women into the industry we love. 

Charlotte de Metz is chief people officer at Keyloop

Charlotte de Metz

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