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Diversity in the Automative Industry

At an historic moment of reinvention, the Automotive industry may benefit from a more diverse workforce.

Back in 19th Century whether through inventions, technical innovations, leadership, courage or inspiring successes women were behind the wheels and were leading pioneers . The inventor of the windshield wiper was a woman, as were the inventors of vehicle heating and of Kevlar fibers. Women made pioneering trips with the first motor vehicles around the dawn of the 20th century. The first circumnavigation of the globe in a car was made by a woman in 1929. The first trans driver to finish the 24-hour race around Germany's legendary Nurburgring track was a woman – who in doing so broke through into the mainstream and set herself up as a role model. All these achievements are closely linked to the biographies of amazing women from all over the world.

This historical contribution of women in the automotive sector is not reflected in today’s industry and neither are other diverse groups . Today women account for only 20% in the auto-manufacturing workforce. Thebiases remain important in the recruitment phase (just having a look at job ads is enlightening) and extend to the dealership stores. The absence of gender diversity in top positions was shown to be a significant contributor to bad customer experiences in the automobile sector.

Lack of diversity may explain some innovation gaps affecting customers’safety. Back in 2011, a study by the University of Virginia Centre for Applied Biomechanics revealed that female drivers involved in car crashes were 47% more likely to fall victim to a serious injury or death than their male counterparts. As reported by Business Insider, until 2003 only male test dummies were tested in vehicles!

As reported by Deloitte, the sector needs to increase the pace of its change, to remain competitive. Almost half (49%) of senior automotive executives questioned in the study say that “attract and retain talent” is the number one goal of diversity and inclusion (D&I) efforts; signalling strong recognition of the value of a diverse workforce.

Diversity and Inclusion enables to unleash the power of innovation. Innovating is imperative for great groups’success like Stellantis with their focus on mobility, connectivity and autonomous driving. Encouraged to see automotive companies acknowledging this need and working on it actively. Much remains indeed to be dong to increase the representation of women, minority ethnic groups, LGBT, neuro-diversity or disability in this sector.

Subhasish Chatterjee & Vanessa Barros

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