The retail automotive industry does a great job of supporting and nurturing the women in its ranks; it just needs to get better at attracting them, and developing them into leadership roles, according to the Gender Diversity panel at the AADA National Dealer Convention & Expo in September.
The panel, hosted by Andrea Culligan, Engagement Partner, Deloitte Private – Commercial Advisory, discussed the importance of gender diversity in the workforce and how to achieve it, and reflected on their own personal experiences.
Ms Culligan began by referencing the McKinsey Report, which showed the benefits of having a strong female presence in business.
“In those organisations where they have gender diversity as a very strong, quote, strategy, they’re continuously rewarded with success, with compound annual growth increase of 3.5 percent per annum. So, nothing light, they’re very large percentages,” she said.
“And if we look at companies where women made up at least 15 percent of senior managers, they had more than 50 percent higher profitability. If we look at Australia – if we would look at gender diversity as a priority – we would boost the Australian economy by 12 percent, which is $297b a year.
“Obviously there’s a number of statistics and data showing us that it’s important. But this is not an industry that is prevalent in having women join the industry.”
On that basis, Ms Culligan said, it was important for men to support and mentor those women who do make it into the industry.
“There are so many opportunities for us to have a diverse and equal workforce, and really celebrate those doing great things bringing women into the business as well,” she said.
Edwina Gilbert, Director, Phil Gilbert Motor Group, said she had been extremely well-supported during her career by the men around her.
“I’ve always felt like I’ve had a seat at the table at the various OEMs I’ve attended. I don’t feel like I’ve had to fight to be there,” she said.
“I think, generally, when people are in this industry they’re relatively well-supported, whether at Dealer or OEM level, but what we’re not getting is that attraction. It’s not something that people are thinking about at a secondary or tertiary level. It’s not on their vocational list of aspirational careers, but once they get into the industry they fall in love with it and I think they are well-supported by any number of male mentors. There aren’t as many female mentors, but there are some really strong male mentors who are focused on making sure that women do survive in this industry.”
Rebecca Frizelle, Chief Operating Officer, Frizelle Prestige, said gender diversity was important because it brought balance to the workforce.
“I’m a big believer in balance. I think balance is better in everything we do, whether it’s our lifestyle or our place of business. I think it just drives a stronger business if we do have a balance with home life,” she said.
“I’ve had wonderful male mentors around me, I’ve been greatly supported, and there is no way I could have done this role without the men I’ve had around me.
“What this is about is attracting more women to the industry, because I think we have a poor reputation out there for all the wrong reasons. Women don’t see this as an attractive industry where they’ll be supported and welcomed on the whole. And the reality is, in my experience, they would be generally across the board. We’ve got to get a lot better at that, because we all struggle with the talent pool at the moment – there is not enough talent out there and we’re paying too much for it. So from a commercial perspective it makes so much sense to broaden the talent pool you’re drawing from and attract women into this industry. But I do make the strong point: best person for the job, not quotas.”
Raelene Murphy, Board Member, Stillwell Motor Group, said it was important to reach a ‘critical mass’ of women in the workforce. If there were just one or two, or they were in roles that were essentially traditional service roles, “you’re not really effecting change”.
Ms Murphy said her belief was that the motor industry was “a little bit behind, because we haven’t got that feeder of females going in, to get to those top jobs”.
“One of the problems you’ve got in the industry, when you haven’t got too many women in senior roles, is that you’re not getting the feeder of women in there who are going to make a difference. In the same way as in the board environment. It’s okay to say, ‘Okay, we’re targeting 30 percent’, but 30 percent of people who really have CEO experience and line management experience and entrepreneurial experience, and all the things that make a difference at corporate level – it is quite hard,” she said.
“We’re so desperate to get women on boards – as we should be because it’s the right outcome – that we’re taking them before they’ve actually realised the experiences they need in order to make that difference at board level.
“We’re still not getting any movement on women in CEO roles, and that’s really your key feeder to boards. So we’ve got to get women into CEO roles, and to make a difference in the motor industry we’ve got to get women in senior roles. In my experience, to do that you’ve got to be culturally aligned and you’ve got to set the tone at the top.”
Stefanee Lovett, Principal, Mercurius Consulting, said setting quotas sends a bad message to young women who were only hired to reach target numbers. Nonetheless, she said the Federal Government was encouraging ASX companies to increase to 30 percent the number of women on their boards.
“What I’d like to see the government do over the next couple of years is encourage more women into non-traditional work areas, rather than thinking they only have a certain path,” she said.
“Not everybody wants to be a CEO, not everybody wants to be senior management, but I think we still need to be encouraging people to be the best workers that they can be and providing a framework or a pathway for them to find out what that is.”