As the rapidly changing nature of auto manufacturing creates new opportunities requiring different skill sets, employers need to step up efforts to attract and retain women, a panel of industry experts says.
Self-driving technology, connected vehicles and mobility are shaping the future of the automotive industry, creating opportunity for women to play non-traditional roles, Greta Cutulenco CEO and co-founder at Acerta Analytics Solutions, told the Oct. 24thAutomotive News Canada’s Leading Women roundtable focused on the manufacturing side of the business.
The panel also included Kristina Covello-Garcia, national manager, marketing communications at Hyundai Auto Canada and Anne Marie Desando, vice-president, manufacturer partnerships and dealer program at Scotiabank.
Cutulenco said the industry is pulling in women with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education through programs like internships. “I got into the industry by doing an internship at Magna, originally through the University of Waterloo. It was a great way to experience the industry, understand how it works. And get involved,” she said.
‘POSITIVE TREND’ AT EVERY LEVEL
Hyundai relies on scholarships and partnerships with trade schools and diversity organizations to attract female talent, Covello-Garcia said. And it’s working. “We’ve seen a very positive trend with more women at every level. At a national manager level, we now represent 44 per cent. So that’s quite astonishing,” she said.
Supporting women after they’ve been hired is another key piece of building female representation in the industry. This can mean delivering mentorship programs or even offering work-from-home options. “We realize not everybody has to be in the office every single day,” Desando said.
Offering hybrid work and remote work “really makes it even easier for women from Vancouver, Montreal, to work with a company that they like,” said Cutulenco, whose company is based in Kitchener, Ont. “And I think that’s really helped us to attract the best talent and offer them what they’re looking for.”
Covello-Garcia noted that after the pandemic, childcare has been challenging at times, and Hyundai tries to accommodate employees juggling appointments or other commitments to help maintain work-life balance.
The cumulative efforts that these organizations are making to attract and keep female employees must be supported at the highest levels of management the panelists agreed. Messaging from the leadership is critical, Desando said.
Having female role models at the top of the industry also helps, Covello-Garcia said. “As we get more women on board, I think we’re going to see a greater power shift and more change created … There have been so many recent new heads of OEMs that are women – people I look up to myself – and I want to do that for someone else, and hopefully lead this future of equality,” she said.