The Automotive 30% Club founder Julia Muir gave this speech in praise of the Inspiring Automotive Woman of the Year Award Winner of 2024, Alison Ross MBE, Chief People and Operations Director at Auto Trader.

“The winner of this award was selected by the IMI judging panel from our 17 Automotive 30% Club Inspiring Automotive Women Award Winners. They are all doing amazing things above and beyond their day jobs to ensure we can build a gender-balanced and diverse automotive industry in which women will thrive as much as men. Congratulations to all of them.

This winner truly embodies what it is to be an Inspiring Automotive Woman, and she has overcome many challenges throughout her career. She is from a family where no one went to university or worked in business. Her drive, energy, and commitment meant she forged her own path, without any support, connections or help from anyone in the industry. She worked her way up from an IT team in a basement, to a senior executive in a FTSE 100 company. She has been instrumental in driving the significant transformations delivered at her current company over the last 20 years, through eight different roles covering technology, data, infrastructure, operations, and people. She delivered key achievements in technology, but beyond those the biggest impact she has had is on her company’s culture and organisation.

For the first 10 years of her career she was nearly always the only woman in the room. She overcame this by working harder than others, overcompensating for being different to be taken seriously. This work ethic and drive meant leaders noticed her and she ultimately accelerated through the organisation to become a member of the executive team. Her purpose is now to reach down and pull others up – to open opportunity to as many people from all backgrounds as possible. She believes we have an incredible opportunity for our industry, and that we need to work together to unlock its promise as an engine of social mobility and prosperity for all. This purpose and her lived experience on this journey make her a role model for men and women in her company, in automotive and beyond.

As a member of the executive team, she has led the strategies to establish her company as a leading employer of choice for women, and a diversity and inclusion strategy to create a true meritocracy and attract and retain high performing people of all types. She has elevated it to the highest level and set six Cultural KPIs that are as important as financial KPIs, one of the only FTSE100 businesses in the UK to have such commitments. Under her strategic direction and dedication incredible results have been achieved, including 42% of leadership positions filled by women, 43% female representation in the overall organisation, and a board where women are in the majority. Diversity measures across ethnicity, disability and neurodiversity are all moving in a positive direction.

She has also created a dedicated team focusing on Future Talent with a comprehensive outreach strategy in schools, colleges, and universities particularly in deprived areas. She was instrumental in the creation of the company women’s network, and also mentors and coaches women. As chair of Manchester Digital, she has led the creation of the award-winning apprenticeship scheme to help increase diversity in the industry. She has helped her company to be an Inclusive Top 50 Company in the UK, the first ever company in the world to achieve the “Autism Friendly” accreditation by the National Autistic Society, and a Disability Leader employer.

This woman is a true inspiration to me, because she quietly and humbly focuses on real performance rather than performative flag waving for diversity and inclusion, and she is personally changing the game across the whole automotive sector because her company shares the best practice she has driven with our Auto30Club member companies, leading to them becoming more inclusive of all. What an amazing legacy.

Thank you so much for all your do, our Inspiring Automotive Woman of the Year – Chief People and Operations Director at Auto Trader – Alison Ross MBE!