As we approach the end of Women’s History Month, I find it appropriate that this week we touch on where women currently stand in the workplace within the auto industry and why, like many other industries, the auto industry needs to continue to work towards gender equality in all levels of the workplace. Although the love for cars and the automotive service and repair industries have typically been thought of as “masculine” and something only men did, the truth is that not only are women making substantial contributions to the auto industry, but the future of the industry itself could depend on how well it understands and caters to the wants and needs of women.
Perhaps even more so than other industries, gender inequality within every corner of the auto industry has been blatantly obvious for decades. In fact, auto dealer fraud is often considered the most commonly occurring type of consumer fraud, and more specifically, many women have experienced (and still continue to) the “pink tax” when it comes to buying a car or having auto service or repairs done. A perfect example comes from the story of a female blogger who recently purchased a new car. She reported that, when she came in to make the final purchase, she was hit with a price tag 55% higher than her initial quote. Even after she informed the salesman that, just a few months earlier, her male partner came in and purchased the same car from the same person and paid the amount he was originally quoted at, she still walked out paying 30% more than her first price quote.
To further paint the picture, recent news headlines reported that women are commonly being overcharged for car insurance for no reason other than the fact that they’re women. Specifically, several reports cite that women were paying up to $500 more than their male counterparts on identical policies. Multiple studies have further confirmed this gender inequality in the industry, including multiple studies in the mid-90’s that showed women being quoted at higher prices than men at over 300 car dealerships. Years later, studies in the 2000’s showed that women were paying more to have auto repair service done than their male counterparts. These days, the “pink tax” women experience is costing them an average of 7% more money spend on automotive-related expenses.
At this point, you may be wondering why this is such a big deal. The truth is, the health of the auto industry could suffer substantially if women continue to feel like they are being targeted by dealerships, insurance companies, etc. Looking at the numbers, women make up half of the U.S. workforce, directly control or influence roughly 73% of all household spending and are responsible for 65% of the purchases of cars and vehicle service performed at dealerships. Simply due to how much size and influence female consumers have in the auto industry, it certainly isn’t too far-fetched to think that, if they continue to feel targeted in a negative way and start moving away from traditional means of buying cars and vehicle service, dealership sales and other industry sales could drop significantly, costing the industry quite a bit of money.
Not only are women being excluded from getting the best prices and services in the auto industry, but they’re being left out of the workplace as well. The Business Journal Daily reports that the auto industry in America is responsible for 7.25 million jobs nationwide, and further reports that 4% of all jobs in the U.S. are in some why tied to the automotive industry. With that many automotive jobs in the U.S., it’s mind-blowing that, in 2017, it was reported that women held less than 27% of the jobs in auto manufacturing, and less than 22% of auto dealership employees were women. Even less, however, was the number of women in auto repair and maintenance, where women only made up about 9% of the labor force. To anyone that thinks this is simply because women don’t know about or love cars, you may be surprised to learn that the BMW Z4, Volvo YYC, Renault Scenic, Ford Probe, and Nissan 350Z were all either designed either by a female-led team, a completely female team, or simply by a woman.
Overall, women are simply too important to the auto industry to continue to marginalize them. Between the sheer spending power they influence as consumers, the valuable input and service they can provide as designers, mechanics, and manufacturers, and, generally speaking, the more communal mindset they typically have as compared to men, women are simply too valuable to automotive sales and production to keep treating them as inferior to men. Some automakers have started taking steps in the right direction by hiring and promoting more female executives and “c-suite” employees, but there still is a long way to go. Some dealerships have even started making changes to treat women more fairly, such as Earnhardt Auto Centers in Arizona. The dealer group developed what they call “Woman to Woman,” which offers customers the opportunity to work with female sales consultants and financial advisors at some dealerships. They have found that some female customers like having this option because it makes them feel more confident and comfortable with the car buying process, and some male customers even report feeling less pressure on the sale when working with a woman. We’re off to a good start, but there’s still a major divide between men and women and the industry. And who knows, the auto industry could potentially see a huge uptick in sales, production and progress if we all did our part to stop gender inequality in the industry we all love so dearly.
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