“Being a woman in the automotive industry isn’t about limiting yourself. It's about embracing yourself as a women,
knowing you can do exactly what a man can do.”
These are the powerful words from Maham, a young student who undertook a one-week placement with our team at Manchester Audi. We were introduced to Maham via our Speakers for Schools relationship when I spoke at her school last year, to talk about why Motor Retail offers such great careers and that it’s not just for ‘boys’.
At the end of the week Maham presented to me, David Lucas, Market Area Director, Steve Fisher, Head of Business and Kieran McDermott, a HR Business Partner.We were all blown away by her presentation and insight after just one week and also her confidence in presenting.The quote above was the icing on the cake.
A big part of our work in improving the perception of our industry has been through the Speaker for Schools platform. Like what we did with Maham, we partner with schools to give a short talk, followed by a Q&A session with students. It’s through this platform that we can start to engage and educate the next generation, in raising the profile that motor retail can provide a great career.
What was most interesting upon meeting Maham, was her perception of the automotive industry before spending the week with us. Her typical observations were ones that are common, ie it would be all men that work in the dealership, lots of long hours and really intense. This strong view point as we know is still shared by many, but at Jardine Motors we are determined to change this. We have come a long way in the past three years but still have a lot to do. However, it’s not all bad, take a minute of your time to listen to Maham talk through her experience – before the placement and then after.
It’s really encouraging to hear that after a week with the Manchester Audi team, her perception had changed.The final part of her presentation was to make recommendations on what we could do to attract young females to the industry and she suggested some great ideas. One of her suggestions was to look at working hours and offer more part-time roles and flexible working. I’m happy to say that we have been working hard over the last year to make these changes and now many of our businesses have introduced a 5-day working week and more flexible hours. We do need to remember though that we must run our business in line with our customer needs, so this is something we will continue to monitor and improve
For us to reach more people to tell them about our business, the progress we’re making and the opportunities available, Maham suggested that we raise our profile on social media. As a team we are starting to share more stories of our people, their achievements and what it’s like to work at Jardine Motors. We’ll be posting more over the coming months, but for now you can see some of what we have been posting on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
A few of the other recommendations we really liked and will investigate for the future, included; supporting new joiners with getting their driving licence. It may be especially hard for younger people to get their licence, so we’ve put together top tips, but will also look at how we could help fund it. Along similar lines, we will also look at whether we could offer free breakfasts to help school joiners into work. Maham brought a lot of great ideas, and it was great to see we were already tackling some of the areas, but also fresh perspective on other areas we could look at.
‘Be the change you want to see’ is a mantra I live by. It’s easy to talk about how to progress and influence change, but it’s the actions we take that will be most instrumental in driving our industry forward and changing the perception that it’s a ‘bad’ place to work.
There is a staggering number of stats out there, all highlighting the disparity between men and women in the workplace. One statistic from a recent Retail Week event, which really struct me, was that, ‘for every 100 men who reach manager level, only 56 women do.’ In our business we are working hard on the issue of diversity – making the change we want to see –so while we still have a way to go, we are proud to say that we have increased women in management from 7% in 2016 to 21% as of January 2018.
Each achievement we make, no matter how big or small, is a step towards our ultimate goal of changing perception and attracting a more diverse workforce. Hopefully Maham’s recommendation of our business is a small step in introducing change and paving the way for more women joining our business.
Author: Clare Martin - Group HR Director