Skip to content

The Gender Gap in the Auto Industry

Posted in Posts

EY, a consulting firm, recently released a report analyzing the gender gap in the auto industry.  The report comes to the conclusion that the auto industry may have a harder time than other industries at closing the gender gap due to its cyclical nature.  When the auto industry is in its “good” years, programs to attract women can receive more attention.  womeninautoHowever, as the cycle hits its downturn, the gender gap issue falls out of focus.  Although only 50% of auto companies measure their gender diversity, 90% of business leaders participating in the study realize the need for firms to improve how they attract women to the field.  Within the survey, responses varied greatly between genders.  Of women, 89% agree diversity is needed to transform the industry for the future while only 56% of men agree.  A separate study cited in by EY estimated women influence 80% of car buying decisions.  As firms continue to compete with domestic foreign auto makers, the ability to hone in on the decision maker’s preference is becoming even more crucial.  Without women present in the designing and engineering of new models, the preferences of females will be more difficult to capture.  Going forward from the results of EY’s study, firms will have the challenging task of determining what aspects are not conducive to  attracting more females to the industry in both profitable and struggling times. However, respondents were not optimistic towards change; only 12% expect a change in the proportion of women in management over the next five years.




  1. adamsm19

    Why do you think, despite the cyclical nature of the auto industry, that automakers have had such a hard time attracting women? It seems that the auto industry would be faced with a similar dilemma to technology companies who have generally done a better job attracting a diverse array of talent.

    May 5, 2016
  2. barnettt18

    Interesting look at the gender gap within the auto industry. Because of the masculine culture that prevails within car culture in general, it is no surprise to me that automakers have a difficult job attracting women to their workplaces. It surprises me that women influence 80% of car buying decisions, but that is even more perplexing when you cite that 12% of people in the industry expect women in management positions to increase. All in all, an interesting post about women’s role in the auto industry and companies’ struggle to attract talent within the field.

    Thomas Barnett

    May 5, 2016
  3. This industry-level gender gap is a subset of a larger STEM gap. Women are a distinct minority in engineering programs. That’s not true of law school, and less true of MBA programs. The top HR person at Ford (a central strategic function, not a hands-on operating position) is a woman, and it was clear that some of her staff were as well. Marketing has many women. But engineering functions don’t seem to play out that way. I can’t speak to manufacturing management, but suspect that’s similar to engineering functions in having a preponderance of men.

    Note that racial divisions are no longer so prominent, though I suspect that few African-americans go into engineering than into business. Some of these individuals have risen to senior executive ranks (I’ve met such individuals at GM and Ford, as well as at a couple suppliers).

    May 7, 2016
  4. brewsterw18

    Lizz, I remember you bringing this topic to attention while at dinner with Mr. Cosgrove this past Tuesday at Canton. I couldn’t help but reiterate what he had to say regarding women in the industry, in that there most impactful expertise with automobiles falls into cars/trucks interior and exterior design. For me, this made a lot of sense since most women tend to be attracted to designing jobs more than that of engineering, which Professor Smitka highlighted above. Therefore, I think if companies wanted to close the gender gap in the industry, a possible answer could be appealing to design schools and women to join their design force. Personally, I think a closer gender gap between men and women would help the industry grow greatly and become more creative due to how the opposite sexes think and prioritize, just my take.

    May 19, 2016
  5. Sat with two former Ford HR people today [May 26 in Indianapolis], didn’t ask specifically about this but heard the tale of a former senior woman who began her career at a Nascar track where between cap and coveralls she could/did hide her gender. She ended up a plant manager and then head of manufacturing, and was a key individual in moving Ford from last in quality and poor in cost to the top end of the scale. She then moved to be a supplier CEO just as the industry collapsed, and now is CEO of some sort of IT firm.

    May 26, 2016

Comments are closed.