The auto industry and the female face

Women in Automotive

Not all that long ago, women weren’t afforded the same options as men.  It was almost unheard of for women to become physicians, lawyers, or hold other high power management positions within the business world.  As we’ve advanced as a society, opportunities for women have opened and we’ve been allowed to somewhat break through the proverbial glass ceiling.  While we’ve been accepted into the aforementioned fields with open arms, there are still prejudices within those positions, as there are in other fields.  The question we have to ask ourselves is are we perpetuating stereotypes or are we zooming toward that glass ceiling with gusto?

There are some patients in the health care field that wouldn’t dream of seeing a female doctor.  Some religious people shy away from a female pastor, or religious leader.  A great deal of people purport that the United States isn’t ready for a female president, as women are far too emotional to effectively run a country such as ours.  This is where the former question comes into play, are we allowing ourselves to be portrayed as victims?  Are we showing the world we are nothing more than kneejerk emotional messes or are we showing people the true ambitious beast inside us all?

Typically, as a female myself, I would shy away from asking these questions in fear of being excommunicated by my fellow ladies out there.  I do believe that there are many women in the specific industries that are treated unfairly, but I also believe, in some instances, that we’re helping people treat us differently.  While I mentioned before that there are healthcare patients that wouldn’t see a female doctor, isn’t it the same if we refuse to see a male OB/GYN physician?  Are we really the fairer sex, or are we just really good at making it look that way?

In the auto industry, 25% of the employees are female, a somewhat depressingly low number, especially considering that nearly half of that number is made up of clerical workers.  36% of physician positions are filled by women, and overly 50% of the country’s lawyers are female.  So why is the automotive industry’s percentage of female workers so low in comparison to the amount of female attorneys?  Many of the women in the industry believe that we are at an unfair advantage, as many men believe that women don’t know enough about cars to sell them.

Quite the contrary, women are more likely to do their due diligence in an effort to prove people wrong.  A women feeling slighted in her industry will make every effort to band together with other women, thus creating an impenetrable network.  Friends in the industry have been asked by customers if they could speak with a male salesperson, have been ignored on the sales floor, and have had to work twice as hard as the men in their stores to reach the same numbers as their male counterparts.

The thing is, though, that over 45% of women say that they would prefer a female salesperson, and woman are responsible for almost 45% of all car purchases.  While this may seem like a triumph on the part of females in the industry, 37% of those women said they didn’t care about the sex of their salesperson.  By doing simple math, this calculates over 15% of women that didn’t trust a member of their own gender to sell them a new car.  When coupled with shocking numbers like the fact that only 2% of car dealerships are female owned, and that 56% of dealership employees felt that their company was not actively recruiting women, it would seem as though women aren’t given a fair shake in the industry.

Historically, women didn’t hold high power positions because it was widely felt that their duty was to be at home, performing wifely duties and rearing children.  One of the most widely felt injustices in the automotive industry is that 40% of females feel that their company does not show a modicum of respect for their familial obligations.  28% of these women were even willing to say their employers proved to have a rather negative reaction to their commitment to their family.  This begs the question; can we really have it all?

The unfortunate side effect to being a female in a predominately male industry is that we tend to draw attention to ourselves.  We pound our fists asking for equal treatment, but are simply singling ourselves out?  Should we be actively pursuing our careers while not asking people to realize that females aren’t getting the same treatment?  Should we be turning a blind eye and keeping our pretty mouths shut or are we doing the right thing by making it known that we’re dissatisfied?

We could ask ourselves questions in a circular fashion all day long, and we could knock on the doors of the rulemakers until we’re blue in the face.  However, until we accept each other and learn to respect other females in our industries, all we’re going to be is blue in the face.  Too often, females become involved in backbiting behavior, while others seem to embrace the “one-of-the-boys” mentality.  Neither of these behaviors is conducive to advancing ourselves in male dominated industries, but how do we remedy a situation that’s been present for decades?  As we’ve climbed the corporate ladders, we’ve been forced to be in competition with each other, but isn’t competition counterproductive to our goals?

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