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Workplace Culture

HR Plays a Key Role in Driving Change for Women in Auto Industry

Promoting gender parity and creating an inclusive workplace remain major challenges for the male-dominated profession.

During Women’s History Month last March we heard inspiring stories from women forging their own paths.

And every day we see examples of women using their voices to enact change. We gather with other women to share experiences and visions of what we want our world to look like.

As chief human resource officer for a company with close to 9,000 global employees, I believe that those of us in HR have a huge responsibility when it comes to promoting gender parity and creating an inclusive workplace – not just in March but as we move forward through the rest of the year.

In the automotive industry specifically, we have our work cut out for us. Women make up an average of just 19 percent of employees at new car dealerships, according to 2016 data from the National Automobile Dealers Association. Many women don’t even consider the automotive industry as a career option because auto has long been seen as an all-boys club.

Women influence 85 percent of car buying decisions, so why aren’t they more involved in an industry that so heavily relies on their buying power? Not harnessing the perspectives of women on important business decisions will only hurt dealers and original equipment manufacturers in the long run.

Once they’re in the door, we need to do a better job of creating a culture of inclusion not just for women but for all employees. Of the women who are in the automotive industry, 68 percent have been told they are too aggressive, according to an Automotive News survey. That same survey found that 43 percent of women felt that they had been passed over for promotions because of their gender.

At CDK Global, we recognize our dual role in the automotive and technology industries and our responsibility to help change those statistics. The women who work at CDK Global are talented, driven and passionate about what they do. One way we support them is through our business resource group, Empower. The group focuses on engaging, supporting and providing the tools for women at CDK to advance their careers and drive total business performance. It was our first resource group to go global and currently has 280 members.

We are also a dedicated sponsor of ChickTech, a national organization that engages girls and women in the technology industry. Many of our female engineers are involved in the workshops and mentorship programs the organization provides.

Like most industrywide changes in the business world, this only works if we all consciously make the effort together. It’s important that we, as HR professionals, do whatever we can to support the unique needs of women in our workplaces. Below are a few ways to begin:

  • Supporting organizations and charities that make sense for your specific industry is a great place to start — it shows your employees that you are dedicated to supporting women in your industry and allows them to get involved and have the opportunity to network and mentor.
  • More benefits may not be as exciting or flashy as some other initiatives, but they certainly make a difference when it comes to recruiting more women to work in predominantly male industries. At CDK, we recently expanded the family planning coverage in our benefits programs, and our female employees are telling us how touched they are to work for a company that supports their personal dreams as well as professional ones. By supporting fertility treatments and adoptions, we can help women who may have focused on their careers during their 20s and 30s and are now choosing to start a family later in life.
  • A flexible work environment can benefit all employees, but especially women, who frequently tell me how much the ability to work remote and flexible work hours help them balance their professional and personal lives.

Only 25 percent of the automotive workforce is women, and we don’t think that’s nearly enough. Through our dedicated efforts, we’re happy to say that 33 percent of those who call CDK Global home are women but we’re certainly not stopping there. We have plans this coming year to offer targeted training and development opportunities that focus on the skills women often lack such as self-promotion and assertiveness. Our ultimate goal is to advance more women into leadership roles here at CDK.

It’s long due for women to feel secure and excel in the workplace. While it’s especially apparent in male-dominated fields like automotive, it’s something that all industries are grappling with at this moment in our collective working history. Of course, it won’t all be fixed overnight, but as long as we’re constantly and strategically addressing the problem, we’re moving forward.

Amy Byrne is the chief human resources officer at CDK Global. Comment below or email editors@workforce.com.