In December 2019, I attended the annual Women in Automotive Conference in Palm Springs, CA. During the event, multiple speakers took the stage to shed various intensities of light on the challenges that women face, not just in the automotive industry, but professionally at large.
“Out of the entire automotive industry, only 17% of the employees are female.”
When I heard this statistic, sitting in a large conference room surrounded by a diverse array of women and a few men, I was surprised by how shocking it was to see on screen. While it is no secret that the automotive industry is male-dominated, the stark reality of this stat reinforced the importance of conferences like this one.
While many of the metrics and information shared during the event could be discouraging, like the fact that if we continue at the current rate it will take 108 years to close the gender pay gap, I left the Women in Automotive conference feeling nothing but motivated. Sure, I work in a male-dominated industry. Yes, women face challenges in the workforce as a product of societal stigmas and expectations. But adversity can be the breeding ground for compassion, an appreciation of diversity, and the willpower to overcome obstacles.
I left feeling proud that I am making an impact in an industry where my gender is underrepresented, excited about my future in automotive, and with a few takeaways that I plan to follow and share with all who will listen. Here are just a few of the practical steps I am taking to translate this passion and willpower into daily action.
Know my worth and don’t be afraid to share it.
During an #IAmRemarkable workshop hosted by Google, the moderator discussed the fact that women are less likely than men to talk openly about their accomplishments. This didn’t necessarily surprise me. While I have never had a problem speaking about my professional achievements in a professional setting, such as an interview or a one-on-one with my manager, I find it awkward to share my personal wins or achievements in social settings. What I did find surprising and unfortunate was that surveys found both men and women view women who talk about their accomplishments in a negative light.
This really hit hard. The conversation in the workshop motivated me to change my behavior and speak more openly about my professional accomplishments. And I think it’s time we all change to create a culture where sharing ones success and achievements is celebrated and not chastised, regardless of who is sharing the news. Start by asking your female colleagues and industry partners what is going well in their career and applaud them when they share the news. Don’t be afraid to celebrate professional wins and your own accomplishments. And consider working with your organization to set up your own #IAmRemarkable workshop.
Support the women around me.
Studies show that women must constantly navigate the “double bind” where they are both penalized for using leadership behaviors associated with masculinity and penalized for being weak if their behavior is seen as too feminine. I am very confident and not afraid to be. I work in sales and I would not be successful without confidence—it’s as simple as that. But in my career I have also been told to be wary of the fact that I can come off as intimidating. I can almost guarantee you that no man has ever been told to be wary of his confidence.
Let’s change this dialogue. Be aware of the judgement you are passing on the women around you. Think about whether your actions or advice may be wrongly driven by societal and sexist bias. Celebrate women who take risks and lead fearlessly. Rather than hide behind your intimidation, face it head on and learn from these women. It is so important to know that another person’s success is not your failure, and we all need to support other women. Period.
Find a mentor. Be a mentor.
You’ve heard it before, and I am sure you will hear it again, but go find yourself a mentor. Having someone who has successfully navigated the business world in your corner is always a benefit. Mentors can offer a third-party point of view, provide guidance when you cannot see the forest for the trees, and help celebrate your accomplishments. Attend networking events in your city or use online resources to connect with strong female professionals in your area to meet with. And never be afraid to ask someone you look up to for a coffee.
With that, if you would like to grab coffee and continue this conversation, let me know. I’m always looking to meet more women in automotive and know that there’s so much we can share and learn from each other. Reach out anytime at [email protected]