Insider career advice for women in the automotive industry
“I dedicate my thesis to myself, 21 years old, who thought that her dream of getting a PhD was impossible. Despite being a single mother, working in undergraduate school, I n ‘ve never let my circumstances discourage me from achieving my goals. ‘Dreams’, by Langton Hughes, encouraged me to hold on to my dream. Although the achievement of this goal has been delayed for more than 20 years, it is no longer a deferred dream.
When Lisa Brown was an undergrad at Wayne State University with a young toddler, she knew she wanted to pursue a doctorate. after meeting a teacher she thought was really cool and who had one. But because Brown knew she had to earn a living to care for her young daughter first, she pledged that one day she would get her doctorate.
More than 20 years later, she has fulfilled that pledge – and conducted groundbreaking research that helps all women and the auto sector in general, on an issue that has plagued the industry for decades. She therefore dedicated it to her young person.
“For me, it’s an exciting industry, the automotive industry, so I asked myself ‘why aren’t more women, especially young women, interested in the industry? car?’ … So I thought this was a great opportunity to study what I’ve been through for the past 22 years and then also try to solve a problem Brown told me recently on my Electric podcast ladies.”
A reinventing industry needs innovative talent
Autonomous vehicles, electric vehicles, new battery technologies, new vision of the “car dealership” as more and more shoppers buy cars online, carpooling, new technologies to monitor the vehicle in multiple ways. These are just a few of the massive innovations hitting the automotive sector, and numerous studies show that having a diversity of minds around the table is the key to successful innovation and to keeping the dangers of groupthink.
It is particularly important for the automotive sector to have more women in leadership, as women buy 62% of vehicles today and influence 85% of car buying decisions. Moreover, women are natural innovators because, in the non-dominant role without traditional authority and budgets, they have had find creative ways to access resources and inspire, persuade and motivate people to achieve company goals.
Yet the automotive industry has struggled with diversity throughout its history. Today, there are more women than ever in automotive leadership positions, but they are still only 22.4%.
How can women climb the ladder in the automotive industry? Here are 9 suggestions based on Brown’s background, research, and our interview:
Ø It’s never too late: Like Brown’s story of going after his doctorate. More than 20 years after university, it’s never too late to achieve your goals and learn more. Studies show that successful startup founders are also over 40 on average.
Ø Invest in yourself: Brown earning his Ph.D. was also an investment in his professional development and career. Julie Lenzer, director of innovation at the University of Maryland and serial entrepreneur, did the same when she returned to school recently to earn her master’s degree in machine learning. Investing in yourself also means taking care of your health, reading books and learning new skills.
Ø Keep your eyes peeled for hidden opportunities: When people talk about moving to a new job, it means that their job will be available. If people are talking about a recruiter they know, ask for that recruiter’s contact information and connect with them on LinkedIn. When companies announce an expansion, research their openings and their executives to communicate with.
Ø Seize lateral job opportunities: Side jobs, or those that appear to be at the same career level you are currently in, are often opportunities to develop your skills, earn more money, and expand your sphere of influence. Dark! These are usually in a different business unit or location and give you a chance to grow. Brown had turned them down until one of his colleagues talked about how much he had gained by taking them.
Ø Ask what you want: Women in particular can suffer from (mostly male) bosses “assuming” they know your choices. They don’t, so tell them. Ask for development opportunities, which can be a project or a job, but they give you a chance to show your potential and stretch. If someone leaves a job you want, ask them to recommend you. Patsy Doerr said on my show that she asked her boss not to exclude her from overseas assignments because she had young children; two weeks later, he was offered an opportunity in Hong Kong that catapulted his career.
Ø “Come prepared with facts”: When asking for a raise, promotion or new job, provide facts and statistics whenever possible. Sales generated, new partnerships formed, people hired or trained, new revenue systems or sources developed, awards won… whatever facts apply to your situation.
Ø have a plan: Take the time, suggested Brown, to develop a career plan, even if you know it will zigzag as you evolve. It will give you direction.
Ø “Give yourself a little grace”: When something goes wrong in your career, tell yourself, “This situation doesn’t define my worth,” Brown said. Don’t take it personally. “Learn from the things that don’t go the way you would have liked and use them as your strength to plan the next step,” she added.
Ø Bring other women: If you’re hiring, make sure you have plenty of talented women in the final pool of candidates. If you are speaking at an event, suggest other speakers. If you quit a job, recommend it to other women. The number of women leaders will grow when more women are recommended – and hired – for more leadership roles, and we all have a role to play in that.
The automotive industry’s gap between the number of women in leadership positions and the number of women buying their products puts the industry at risk of not being able to innovate to serve its market.
Women in industry can excel in taking these and other actions – all of which help ensure we have the transportation options we will need and want in 21st century.
Listen to my full interview with Dr. Lisa Brown on my Electric Ladies podcast here.