Eddie Hawthorne, CEO & Group Managing Director of Arnold Clark (photograph)
Eddie has helped to transform the culture at Arnold Clark to make the automotive giant more welcoming to women. To attract the best people, he understands that a successful company must be progressive and balanced, and while progress has been made, there’s still more to do.

There’s no hiding from the fact that traditionally, the automotive industry has been male-dominated. From sales to servicing, many roles have predominantly been filled by men, but there’s already a shift underway and we’re working hard to make that happen. From the boardroom to the showroom, and everywhere in between, Arnold Clark is addressing the gender gap to make sure the future of automotive is progressive and successful.

As a car dealership group, we’re well aware of the traditional view of a salesman in their suit and tie. For many, that was an intimidating environment. So, we’ve done away with all that and taken sales out of the equation. Our customers now buy their cars from product consultants – this means there’s no suit and tie and no hard sell, which immediately creates a better atmosphere for our customers. But before the customer has reached the decision to buy, they’ll talk to our product geniuses, who are experts in every car in their branch, who can explain all the features and benefits to anyone thinking about buying a car. They’re purely there to answer questions and take customers for test drives, giving them all the information they need to make an informed choice. The product genius role often attracts a number of younger people, particularly those who are looking for their first job, and they receive training to help them progress in the role. With this shift, we’ve been able to attract more people from different sectors, including retail, and bring in people who may not have considered a career in automotive before.

But Arnold Clark is more than just showrooms, we also repair and service cars and hire a huge number of technicians, panel beaters and spray painters. A vast number of those come through our GTG training centres as apprentices. In fact, this year we’re bringing in 400 apprentices across a range of disciplines. Again, traditionally, it has often been young men who have applied for these jobs. But half the battle is communication, and letting women know that these roles are available to them. That’s why we launched Girls With Skills in 2020. This programme reaches out to schools and invites young women to take part in taster days at our training complexes. If they enjoy the experience, they can apply for a full apprenticeship, and they’ll be put on the fast track to join the company when they finish school. The more who take this opportunity, the more role models new apprentices will have within the sector which will help us reach our goals.

Arnold Clark is a company that likes to promote from within and develop talent, so a better mix within the business will lead to greater diversity in senior positions over the next ten or twenty years. We recently welcomed Margaret Speirs as our new Group Rental Director. She began working at Arnold Clark in 1998 as a part-time receptionist and has climbed the ranks to her current position. It’s a testament to her hard work and the respect she has earned, but her journey also shows the possibilities for progression to any of our employees.

We want to reward good work and we want to find the best people and offer them a career for life. By creating great opportunities for employees, and learning from organisations such as the Automotive 30% Club, we will address the gender balance and help transform the automotive industry.