Automotive 30% Club Patron member Auto Trader UK has begun hosting a series of new live webinars, Courageous Conversations, hosted in partnership with the Automotive 30% Club.
Julia Muir, Founder of the Automotive 30% Club will be featuring in each of the bi-monthly episodes alongside other experts who will share their experiences in their journey to create a more positive culture for women in their business. Focused around a topical issue associated with gender diversity, the series will be an opportunity to share ideas and hear guidance on achieving greater gender balance across our industry.
Episode 1: The intersectionality of women in automotive – what is it and why should we care?
The first episode took place on Tuesday the 4th of August. In addition to Julia, the panel included Auto Trader’s COO, Catherine Faiers, and Senior Campaign Manager Rebecca Nassiri, Marshall Motors CEO Daksh Gupta and Franchise Director, Carole Merry. Together they discussed intersectionality of women in automotive and why greater diversity of women in the industry will be vital to its future success. There were some fabulous questions submitted by the audience, some of which the panel ran out of time to answer, however you can find the panels’ written answers to those questions below.
If you didn’t get the chance to watch the first Courageous Conversation you can catch up here:
Q: As a neurodiverse woman, we say that academic results are not important yet we still see many senior roles asking for degrees etc, this is debilitating and unless the recruitment process is changed we are not walking the talk, do you see a change to this approach to recognise the benefits of being neurodiverse which are extensive?
Catherine Faiers: “We absolutely see the benefits and agree recruitment processes need challenging, in particular in hierarchical organisations, where success is driven by more traditional measures. Where recruiters are trying to manage volume recruitment, it is ‘easy’ to filter by academic achievements to streamline processes, it’s easy but organisations are missing out on talent. There are more examples where businesses are working on attraction strategies that are focussed on driving all diversity strands, including neurodiversity. We have got a lot from working with the National Autistic Society and other specialist organisations and are very happy to share more details if it’s helpful to you.”
Q: For me, an ideal world would be where we except everyone for who they are and not what they are. I long for a world where we don’t see people for their age/ gender / ability / race but we see them for the inspiration they bring, the work they do, the discussions they raise etc, do you think this is possible in the near future?
Catherine: “This world sounds like a wonderful place. That said, I wonder if the goal shouldn’t be to aim for environments where we can celebrate and champion each-others differences, rather than learn not to see them? I find it fascinating to understand and have learnt a lot from different peoples experiences, backgrounds, challenges and cultures. By listening and learning about how this has impacted them and their perspectives on the world, I think we all benefit and learn to see the real power in diversity?”
Rebecca Nassiri: “Seeing people for their age, gender, race, ability, or any other aspect that make up their identity is actually a wonderful thing! We instead need to change our mindset behind it and the unconscious biases we may have towards certain aspects. As a woman of colour, I celebrate and embrace the colour of my skin, my race, my heritage, all of it. Seeing these aspects shouldn’t stop anyone from also seeing all the other points you’ve raised, such as a person’s work. Embrace intersectionality, and bringing in people from all walks of life, as this will ultimately create a working environment that not only is better for the business’s bottom line but is reflective of the world we live in.”
Q: What are the best ways to begin open conversations so we can develop a much better understanding of how colleagues identify? Does this start with training and awareness to build trust?
Catherine: “It starts with creating safe, inclusive environments where people feel comfortable having these conversations. I am sure raising awareness and training will help to create these spaces. As an example, the people who joined our LGBT+ network are a mix of people that identify as part of the community and active allies who support the network and openly challenge others in the business to raise their own awareness. In some situations, it is easier for allies to play a more active role in challenging or driving discussions, creating these groups of passionate people is a great place to start.”
Q: How can you keep the colleagues that are from the marginalised groups from leaving a joining industries that may be perceived as more inclusive?
Catherine: “This is a challenge for the wider industry and one we all need to work together to address. There is no reason why our industry needs to be perceived in this way – it has an exciting future at the heart of technology, mobility and transport trends. It should be equally progressive when it comes to driving gender diversity. It starts with conversations like the one today and with encouraging more colleagues, leaders and organisations to start listening.”
Rebecca: “The short answer is – you can’t stop them! But ask yourself, and them, why would they consider leaving? What issues do they currently face at work and what could be fixed? What do they want to see change within their current working environment to make them more comfortable bringing their true selves to work?”
Julia Muir: “If people are leaving it’s down to the company rather than the entire sector, although I agree our sector doesn’t have a reputation for inclusivity. So we need to tackle this on several levels: now is the time for colleagues to have the conversation with senior managers about anything that might be stopping them thriving: usually, it comes as a surprise or shock to hear it and mobilises action. The sector needs to do more to publicise our commitment to inclusion and make the actions we are talking visible both internally and to the wider world and key players who are taking concrete action should make themselves known. Finally, if colleagues feel uncomfortable in their current setting there are plenty of other automotive companies that would welcome them. Everyone should find the best fit for them and not settle for less.”
Q: There are so many great diverse initiatives and policies that companies should be looking at, and support needed at work for so many. If you are just beginning to look at this within a business, where do you start? Is it policies, support, celebration? And who can support a business to ‘get it right’?
Catherine: “Start by finding the people in your business who are passionate about diversity and inclusion, listen to their challenges and the barriers they face. The journey for each business needs to be authentic and driven from within to have a sustainable and lasting impact. These early conversations with small groups should shape where you start and why, I wouldn’t try to follow ‘a list’ or ‘best practice’ because it will feel like something being driven from outside your organisation.”
Rebecca: “The start of this journey will always feel overwhelming, but trust in the process and know it’s the right thing to do, for your people more than anything, and for the business. Start by listening to the people who are passionate about D&I (and make sure they are a diverse bunch!) to find out what their priorities are, whether it’s celebrating what you’ve already done, putting together a step plan, or anything else.”
Julia: “It starts by the top person making the decision to take action, and actually collect the data to understand what the current situation is with regards to gender balance and diversity in the company, and treating this as a business priority by setting a clear aim or target to improve the numbers. By joining the Automotive 30% Club a company leader is guided on how to be an inclusive leader and change the game by implementing six steps to success. You must convince the leader to recalibrate the business for inclusion, sometimes achieved better through them talking to peers, sometimes by a grassroots movement pushing up to the leader from within.”
Q: When people within organisations do not support or encourage diversity within the business how would you advise we best manage this to drive this change?
Catherine: “Make time to start the conversation. I’ve met very few people who aren’t convinced if you can talk to them and challenge their thinking on the benefits of achieving a diverse gender balance. The key is to make it a business priority so that it’s not ok not to engage, create the time to allow people to talk and raise awareness.”
Rebecca: “Usually, an unwillingness to support or encourage diversity comes from a defensiveness as they are essentially being told that what they’ve done before isn’t ‘right’. If we make it clear that we’re all learning together and that we are creating safe spaces to do so, without judgement, then we can all move forward together. I’ve heard a few times that people live in fear in our ‘PC’ world and don’t know what is and isn’t ok to say any more. Hold your hands up! Admit you don’t know but you’re willing to learn. These safe spaces will foster a culture of inclusivity and naturally encourage diversity.”
Julia: “The top leadership team has to ‘walk the talk” and lead by example by championing inclusion. The CEO/MD must build a compelling change story that explains the benefits to all men and women in the company of having a diverse gender balance due to the superior performance that results. By nudging people to realise that the norms that will be rewarded and celebrated are including rather than excluding women and / or minority groups and that it is not a zero sum game because everyone wins if the business is successful, the behaviours will change.”