Being a female in the automotive industry is wonderful, exhilarating and I am extremely proud to be part of such a large booming industry. It does however bring its own sets of challenges in which this blog addresses a few of them. I aim to change the view that some may have already formed and to educate from my own point of view.
To put you in the frame; I am a multiple business owner to 5 incredible and very different business's, one of which crosses into both automotive and fitness category's and two which are firmly implanted within the automotive industry. I co-own these with my partner (a male) and since the conception of the three business's I am referring to, I have at times been treated differently. There could be some argument that the way I have been treated could be the same in any industry and I most certainly agree - however with two other business's in a totally different business sector I have not had similar experiences to those that I have experienced in the automotive industry.
The first thing that is massively obvious is that within the automotive industry there are many people that refer to others within it as 'boys', 'lads' or 'fellas'. Especially from a business point of view when receiving customer enquiries it is almost a daily occurrence that the message will start with 'hi lads'. This is purely based on an assumption from the customer and while I am in no way offended it does propose the question as to why this is a common preconception. I do always correct someone in the nicest way possible that not everyone working for the company is a 'lad' and that there is a female involved as I feel that it is important to change the perception of this. Evidently, despite the growing numbers of females working within the automotive industry's there is a male dominance throughout each sector.
Being taken seriously comes hand in hand with the notion of being a female business owner in my eyes. I honestly feel that from my experience I am taken less seriously as an owner than of my business partner when it comes to this industry and have often felt patronised - especially within motorsport. What alarms me more however is how my 'look' can convince someone of who is the owner within a situation. Take a trade show that I was recently at as an example. The company had a trade stand and I was there with the other co-owner selling our product. We were dressed according to our theme and both taking on the same role of customer service; Inviting people into our area, manning the till area and generally chatting to customers or potential buyers. The majority of customers smiled and said hello to me and then went and asked a question to my male business partner, sometimes even after I had offered to help answer any questions. I can only assume that because I was stood in the stall wearing a pair of heels that they thought of me as only a promotional model rather than the business owner that I am. Furthermore we were approached by approximately 10 other business's that were wanting to hand their business cards to our company and to discuss working together. Every single one of them went straight to the male out of us two and totally by-passed me. They shook his hand and simply smiled at me and it wasn't until I had to actually outreach my hand and introduce myself as an owner that they aimed any conversation towards myself. This is a common occurrence when collecting stock; I am forced to put my hand out and state that I am an owner otherwise I am ignored.
This blog post is not to complain. I love the industry that I am in and I have extremely thick skin and a determination that is rare; I am however raising awareness and stating the truth - there is a difference in the way females and males are treated within the automotive industry. I would love it if you are reading this and potentially have not treated a female the same (whether by accident or out of presumption) that you change your way of thinking and widen your preconceptions to the notion that the person behind the large automotive related company that you are about to purchase from, or that you are about to email; could in fact be a woman, dressed in pink with her fluffy slippers on. I encourage you to treat everyone equally no matter the industry, business or situation.