Women in the fleet industry
Samantha Roff, Managing Director for Venson Automotive Solutions, discusses the under representation of women in the fleet industry and how attracting a more diverse workforce can help keep Britain’s business moving
Fleets, whether large or small, vans or cars, are essential to keeping Britain’s business operating smoothly. So having worked in the fleet industry for a fair few years, it was refreshing to hear that our trade body, The Association of Fleet Professionals has launched a training course to give women in the industry the confidence to have their voice heard. This is to be applauded, yet, during a recruitment crisis, more needs to be done. Female representation in the automotive sector hovers at just 19% compared to 51% in non-automotive industries, so it came as no surprise that research we conducted found half of the women said they would not consider a career in the motor industry.
How can we change that trend, especially when a third of those we surveyed said that it was never presented as an option to them by their family, school, or college?
Traditionally, thinking about the motor industry, images of oil, grease, and grime come to mind. While these roles still exist, so much has changed over recent years. New career options have emerged thanks to the revolution in zero-emission and self-driving vehicles as the industry adapts to new, cutting-edge technology and software.
It is a rapidly growing industry, yet nearly half of UK automotive companies are concerned about skills shortages in key roles from research and design to engineering and manufacturing. With the looming deadline on the ban on sales of new petrol and diesel models in 2030, not to mention the Government’s Net Zero policy by 2050, the industry is severely lacking suitably qualified people.
It is clear that action is needed at a societal level and across primary and tertiary education, to encourage women into the automotive sector, including fleet, to make it more representative of the market it serves and to help plug the skills shortage. Our research revealed that 26% of women would or have considered a career in the motor industry while 24% remained uncertain.
The most popular career choice for those considering the industry is to become a car designer (33%). This is followed by automotive application software engineer – responsible for the design and development of software systems for in-car technology (26%) – and vehicle technician – specializing in the computerized aspects of vehicle repair (24%).
Historically, industries such as technology and engineering have been heavily male-dominated and gender stereotyped. However, in the past few years, there has been a gradual shift towards STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) subjects being chosen by girls at GCSE and university level and it is important to keep this momentum going. There are also apprenticeship opportunities in the automotive sector which are perfect for young women to consider especially when unsure whether the A-Level and university route is right for them.
Younger women aged between 18 and 24 are the most likely to consider a job in the automotive sector (34%) but the appeal wanes for older age groups with just over a quarter (27%) of 25–34-year-old women saying they would think about it. Less than a quarter (23%) of 35–44-year-olds said they would contemplate a job in automotive. Yet even with the positive response from the 18- to 24-year-olds it appears more needs to be done to capture the younger age group at school and college level when they are choosing their career options.
The automotive sector faces its biggest skills challenge of the last two decades, yet half of the women we surveyed said they would not consider a career in the motor industry as they believe they don’t have the technical abilities needed. Despite women reporting a lack of encouragement at the school level and beyond, it’s reassuring to see from our research that a quarter of women still aspire to a career in the automotive industry.
The UK has one of the most advanced and diverse automotive sectors in the world. Its future growth, however, will depend on the recruitment and training of skilled workers to carry out critical jobs. Put simply, businesses rely on vehicle fleets moving people and products where they are needed but if we can’t recruit a workforce to the automotive sector, those fleets are put at risk. So, it is up to us all to help break the glass ceiling in the industry. We can only imagine the upward trajectory if more were done to promote an automotive career to girls from early years, in both traditional roles and roles that would have been unimaginable a decade ago.