heycar meets Rebecca Steer
heycar editorial team
To celebrate this year’s International Women’s Day, we took a look at the (lack of) diversity in the automotive industry, and spoke to some of the women breaking the stereotypes, to get their views on what more the industry could be doing to balance those gender scales.
Despite the promotion for gender equality over the last few years, the car industry has got a lot of work to do to banish the male dominated stereotypes. Less than two years ago, men occupied more than 82% of roles in the sector and a study from Deloitte and Automotive News found 65% of women would avoid a career in the industry due to the unappealing environment.
But is enough being done to change those perceptions and numbers for the better? We got a perspective from Rebecca Steer, the National Sales Manager at Volkswagen Financial Services.
Rebecca has worked her way up, having started as a Customer Contact Adviser in 2013, to become a well-respected, senior figure in the organisation, so what’s her take on how the industry is addressing the gender imbalance?
Did you want to work in the automotive industry growing up?
I actually did. When I was at university I did a business management degree and I actually did my dissertation on Toyota’s supply chain, which sounds a bit odd considering I’m now working for Volkswagen.
But there’s always been something about the automotive industry which has fascinated me, not necessarily cars as such, but I knew it was something I wanted to be a part of. I started by doing some basic accountancy modules in my degree and found it combined with the car business really well.
Were you ever put off trying to break into the automotive industry because of the male-dominated stigma associated with it?
No I have never been put off or shied away from it. I completely appreciate it is more of a male-dominated industry but by no means have I ever been made to feel like that was the case.
Breaking the mould wasn’t ever something I set out to do or achieve but it probably helps me feel a bit more ambitious and driven about how I go about things because being a female I think you do look at things slightly differently, whether that be good or bad.
Given the automotive industry has always been male-dominated for such a long time, is this still obvious today, or have you noticed attitudes changing?
I do think attitudes are changing and I’m seeing more women are appearing in more typically male-dominated roles in the automotive industry. It’s becoming more common to see female directors and in other senior positions which is great and I think the industry is changing.
Have you yourself had an experience or ever felt that being a woman has held you back in the industry?
It’s not happened to me personally. I think I have always been treated very fairly and I’ve never seen any discrimination in the industry and business itself. But the stigma is there and has always been the case so it’s about time more women got involved.
What more can be done to get more women involved?
It needs to be a combination of attracting the younger generation into junior roles, encouraging their development upwards and encouraging women currently in senior positions outside the industry to break in and become role models.
I have been approached by a number of young women within the company asking for advice and how I got to where I am now so I think that role model strategy is key.
What advice would you give to women thinking about starting a career in the automotive industry?
Be bold, come without any preconceived ideas. It’s a lot friendlier and less daunting than people think. Don’t feel overwhelmed by the age, gender or background of the person sat across the table from you. You have the right to an opinion just as much as everyone else. Be ambitious, driven and focused on what you are doing.
If you’ve got someone who you can approach in confidence and seek their guidance, that mentor is invaluable in helping you follow in their footsteps and become the best version of yourself.