The automotive industry is considered to be the last bastion of a male dominated society. It is not that women have not chartered their career paths in this segment, it is that the ratio of men to women working in this field is definitely much less than others. Women have traditionally chosen to be in specific corporate sectors – information technology, administrative tasks, engineering, medicine and fashion designing.
However the reasons for their low involvement in the automotive industry are not hard to find. The bulk of work in this sector is primarily devoted to the assembly line so far as manufacturers are concerned and shop floor in case of service stations and dealers workshop. In these areas, the role of the women is primarily confined to low physical effort packaging and basic assembly line operations like cutting and stitching upholstery and leather and fabric lining of dashboards and trims.
Apart from this, women are mainly into administrative work such as HR and data processing. Those who do hold very high positions have generally taken over family businesses unlike those who have come up the hierarchy. The number in the second category is rather limited. There are however a few companies that hire women in proportion to other industries but then it depends on the individual ethos and culture of the company. Women are hired and then given training in their respective areas of operations to make them as high performing as their male counterparts. But here too the number of companies in the automotive industry with this mindset is rather limited.
The prevailing mindset that women are not in large numbers in the automotive industry because of physical demands of the sector is actually a myth. Look around and women can be seen in the most taxing of vocations – construction sites, armed forces and fire brigade for example. If that is the case, there is no reason why women will be a misfit as a transmission specialist in Melbourne or an engine tuning expert in Sydney. Both of them require hard physically demanding work that women are quite capable of performing. The point therefore is that women’s role in the automotive sector while on the rise has not yet taken the proportion of men. Women can be found working on shop floors but more in decision making and administrative processes.
If one is to move away from the manufacturing as well as maintenance and repair segments of the automotive industry to dealerships, the ratio of women to men will not be any less than other industries. There might be a dearth on the shop floor but that is more than made up in other operational functions. Accounts and finance, sales and marketing, HR, and information technology are areas that are often managed largely by women. Walk into a well known and large certified garage and service station such as Western Auto and this aspect will be proved. There might not be women tinkering with the engine or helping in LPG conversions or checking brake pads but they will surely be performing critical tasks like filing insurance claims, being in touch with clients and offering optimised customer service.
There is another side to hiring women in the auto industry. Major companies are taking women on board at various levels to get their perspectives of a product. Yamaha, a major scooter manufacturing company are hiring women in design and production side as women are the major users of their scooters around the world. Modifications on existing models are often made taking into account the riding ease and comfort of women.
Women being hired in the automotive industry is on a rise today and with them conquering all frontiers that men have to date, the time is not far off when they too will be employed in numbers at par with men in this sector.