The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that, as of August 2021 women make up 17.53% of the “auto parts, accessories, and tire stores” category. 75% of women polled from an automotive Deloitte survey feel underrepresented in the auto industry. Given these 2 numbers, we can ask ourselves what are some effective methods to address the gender gap in our industry within the Diversity Equity & Inclusion (DE&I) initiatives companies are currently pursuing?
I took a quick poll from my LinkedIn network which you may have seen during the first week of September while writing this article for Tire Business and 87% of respondents felt that the tire industry doesn’t do enough to attract, retain, and promote women from within the industry.
How Can the Tire Industry Attract and Retain More Women?
Women have a lot to offer the industry. According to Deloitte’s Automotive survey, women offer the following benefits to the automotive industry (just to name a few).
- More diverse perspectives in decision-making (93%)
- Balanced organizational management (87%)
- Improved financial performance (61%)
Start as a Top-Down Initiative and Address Gender Bias Head On
Getting more women into the workplace starts with a conversation. Dealerships and others should start by examining their workplace and determining whether there is a “blind spot.”
If there is an issue, having a conversation with the hiring manager or human resources representative is a great starting point. They will often be able to tell you why qualified candidates are not accepting positions or why they are not getting applicants.
In addition, sometimes just pointing out the issue to the hiring team can go a long way toward exploring certain candidates further. This conversation should address any potential misconceptions your team has regarding hiring women head-on.
Flexible Scheduling and Focus on Work-Life Balance
In fact, in Deloitte’s survey, 89% cited lack of work-life balance as the top reason they avoid careers in the automotive industry. It is also the top reason that women leave the field, even after making a career in it.
Being both creative and flexible in scheduling and how you compensate your team, as just a couple of examples, can go a long way to encourage the focus on work-life balance.
Be Intentional About How You Recruit and the Culture at Your Workplace
Take a hard look at your job postings and recruitment methods. Are they disproportionately targeting males? For example, some job postings (particularly in sales) request “rockstars” or “ninjas.” These terms focus on alpha male personas, which can deter women.
Be intentional about how you are targeting and the environment you are creating with every hire and how you work. Something as simple as adding a traditional mentoring program can be a great draw for women who desire a team mentality.
While writing this article I also reached out to a few of my female thought leaders in the space and was recommended to contact the U.S. Tire Manufacturers Association and Anne Forristall Luke the President and CEO were nice enough to comment from her perspective on this topic:
“Enlisting More Women in the Tire Manufacturing Workforce: It starts with values
At a time when the United States is taking a closer look at the issue of equity in our corporate environments and board rooms, we’re becoming increasingly committed to recruiting, retaining, and promoting a more representative workforce and leadership. This is particularly true in sectors that have traditionally been viewed as male dominated, including tire manufacturing.
The good news is that we can leverage and build on a proven set of tactics that have been successful in improving gender diversity outcomes in corporate America.
Commitment starts at the top
When company leaders are serious about recruiting more women in the tire manufacturing industry, or in any industry for that matter, senior leaders embrace these hiring initiatives and prioritize them so that managers and recruiters understand them as part of the company’s value proposition. And, a more diverse workforce conveys valuable information to investors, consumers, and our communities.
What gets planned (and measured) gets done
Let’s face it, if we don’t set goals and incentives for achieving them, the likelihood that those priorities will be achieved is pretty low. As a sector, we are taking steps to elevate Diversity Equity & Inclusion (DE&I) objectives to be as much of a priority as any other organizational goal. But goals are arbitrary and difficult to define if we don’t know where we’re starting. Baseline data is critical in developing meaningful targets for increasing diversity, so there is clear direction on where improvements to existing metrics can be made. Tying incentives to these objectives reinforces these actions as a top-of-mind effort.
Seek feedback from the outside and from within
Internal investigation is a required step and necessitates feedback at various levels of the organization to get a true and honest understanding of blind spots and areas for improvement. Two-way communication is critical. However, only talking to your internal teams can have an “echo chamber” effect that doesn’t lend itself to the most honest discovery. Therefore, it’s equally important to gain insights from leaders in other sectors; especially leaders who have been successful in improving gender diversity and the adoption of best practices. Additionally, actively seeking opportunities to engage with human resources and women’s leadership and advocacy organizations can yield invaluable resources to help organizations evaluate existing hiring practices and areas where improvements can be made.
Change how (and where) you talk about your industry
How we talk about our industry can also be a game changer. When I started in the tire manufacturing industry, I had no idea how much technology and innovation would be involved in the field. Digital transformation in the sector is critical to next-generation mobility in society. This is an area of focus for our industry to help us attract the next generation workforce. Younger workers want to be part of cutting-edge transformation; they’re focused on sustainability, diversity and innovation and they want to feel invested in the future. We are refocusing on those aspects of tire manufacturing to change the perception of a staid old-line industry. It’s also important to engage and invest in these particular audiences. As an example, commitments to support women in STEM programs as early as high school can go a long way in creating a talent pipeline well into the future.
Commit to incentives that attract women to work
Achieving a truly dynamic and attractive culture in tire manufacturing requires investments in recruiting women beyond the professional and management levels. The healthiest companies will incentivize greater gender diversity on the manufacturing floor and providing access to onsite childcare and even healthcare services where possible will go a long way to support and incentivize economic opportunities for women.
The tire manufacturing industry is leading a significant transformation in the future of sustainable mobility in many meaningful ways. Integral and paramount to this transformation and our long-term success is the adoption of across-the-board diversity throughout our organizations. Our values demand it, and our nation and society will reap substantial benefits.”
To wrap this up I can also say that as an executive recruiter within the industry 100% of women I have asked say “we need more women within the industry.” At the same time, even though we need more women within the industry, we need to understand that most “experienced” vacant positions are going to organically be filled up by men. It’s just the current pool is overwhelmingly men for experienced positions. From techs, engineers, to sales reps. The answer must be to recruit from outside the industry and help build the bench to diversify the workforce. Companies must be willing to change their standards and norms when it comes to recruiting or else the numbers will just stay the same.
Mike Cioffi is the founder of Tire Talent, a firm focused on helping companies find top talent.