A REFLECTION ON HOW THE PANDEMIC IS SHAPING WOMEN'S CAREERS AND WHY WE NEED TO CELEBRATE TALENT

Clare Wright, Group HR Director

The nominations are open again for the Inspiring Automotive Women Awards run by the Automotive 30% Club, which I believe are a vital platform for celebrating talent in the automotive sector.

It has been widely reported that the COVID pandemic has potentially had a detrimental impact on women’s careers, which is why I believe there has never been a more pertinent time for businesses to nurture, support and celebrate the difference that women make to their companies and the wider industry.

No doubt, like many other businesses during lockdown, we were focused on keeping our colleagues informed and engaged. But as we started to re-open the businesses in June, it was essential that we did all we could to help women return to the workplace by introducing flexible working, home working practices and encouraging our managers to take a very personal bespoke approach to meeting all colleagues’ needs.

Flexible and home working is now here to stay at Jardine Motors, and it benefits all colleagues not just our females. However, what it’s taken is a shift in managers’ mindsets from focusing on output to impact and productivity not a focus on presenteeism. Hundreds of our colleagues are reaping the benefits as well as the business. All it takes is trust and empowerment.

One of the other interesting positive ‘side effects’ of the pandemic which I have observed impacting most significantly on our female colleagues is due to the use of technology. Since lockdown, the majority of our meetings are now facilitated using Teams rather than face-to-face, and this has been transformational because we are now able to accommodate a much more diverse group of people in those meetings.We can work more flexibly around individual’s personal circumstances such as childcare, which is leading to richer and more challenging conversations. Ultimately, this can only make us a better business.

I have also observed that women in particular have used the power of technology to build in confidence. I’ve found that female colleagues are more likely to speak out in virtual meetings and express an opinion when before they might have been intimidated by being surrounded by the energy of a predominant group of men.It appears to be that video makes meetings more of a level playing field for communication and ideas. The more we do towards supporting female talent to have a voice, it should enable the automotive industry to achieve before 2030, the industry target of 30% of women in management positions.

However, now is the time for women to take action for themselves. The solutions and support are all in place; whether that’s flexible working, finding a mentor to help guide you through the next steps in your career, or needing an ally to have someone on your side and perhaps help break down a door for you. There’s an abundance of networks, initiatives and people available to help any woman who wants to achieve more in this brilliant industry, you just have to take ownership and responsibility for making change happen for yourself.