Turning the tide: Women in fleet
It is no secret that, historically, gender has played a pivotal part in how people perceive certain industries and worker roles.
For time immemorial, consignment of many roles has been based largely on gender type, with domesticated or caring roles bequeathed to women, in keeping with the ‘feminine’ and ‘maternal’ stereotypes of the day.
However, the decades-long drive for equal opportunity in the 20th century has challenged these stereotypes and, slowly but surely, skills, knowledge, and aptness prevailed over gender, with sex no longer seen as an automatic occupational barrier.
Women are indeed blazing trails in industries traditionally dominated by men – but they are still often underrepresented.
According to a Deloitte study of women in the European automotive industry, almost two thirds (64 per cent) felt that women are underrepresented in their organisation’s leadership teams, with 57 per cent feeling there was an industry bias toward men for leadership positions. Thirty-six per cent cited the lack of a flexible work environment as a reason for this, and 30 per cent blamed the overall perception of automotive and manufacturing.
But the business case for a more diverse and representative employee population is compelling.
Research indicates organisations with diverse leadership are more profitable. A study by Catalyst, a leading non-profit organisation dedicated to expanding opportunities for women in business, found that Fortune 500 companies with a high percentages of women officers had a 35 per cent higher return on equity and a 34 per cent higher total return than companies with fewer women executives.
With so much to gain, why the diversity gap?
With regards to the European automotive industry, issues related to work environment and work life balance rank among the top reasons that would cause women to avoid careers in the sector.
According to the Deloitte study, a lack of a flexible schedule (33 per cent), unattractive income (32 per cent), unattractive work environment for women (31 per cent), lack of opportunities for advancement (28 per cent) and lack of work life balance (27 per cent) were cited as top reasons to steer clear of the industry.
But change is happening.
Almost half (45 per cent) of the survey respondents said that they saw a marked or some positive change in the automotive industry’s attitude to women in recent years and almost the same percentage (44 per cent) said they would encourage their daughter or female family member to pursue a career in the sector.
Indeed, many companies are recognising the critical role women play in the advancement of the fleet automotive sector and are making moves to broaden the talent pool through greater inclusivity. More than half (53 per cent) of TraXall’s European workforce, for example, are female.
So, the question is – is the fleet automotive sector still geared against women?
We asked our female employees to give us their view.
What attracted to you to the sector?
There may be a preconception that in order to be drawn to the fleet sector and have a successful career, you must have a keen interest in mechanics and be a car enthusiast, but our female employees beg to differ.
The greatest attraction is the breadth of experience you gain from working in the industry and the variety of tasks and challenges that you encounter on a daily basis.
TraXall France key account manager Malika said: “Each client, each case, each demand is different. It is a constantly changing sector in which we must keep up with the news, technological innovations, fiscal and environmental rules, manufacturers’ innovations, etc. So, each day is different from the previous; it is impossible to get bored.”
Marta at TraXall International, who has four years’ experience in the industry, said: “It is a collaborative process that involves different agents, from OEM to leasing companies, including the employees of a company. Cross-functional working has always attracted me and I find it very enriching on a professional level.”
The fleet sector is traditionally seen as a male-dominated industry. Do you see a change in female representation in recent years?
Katy, Marketing Manager at TraXall Germany, who has worked in the industry since 2006, said: “There are many efforts in the field now and it has definitely improved compared to 10 years ago. However, there is still a long way to go. Women still have to work harder than men and prove themselves before they get the same recognition.”
Other female TraXall colleagues agree that the barriers that once existed have been broken down – with one saying that the fleet sector is no longer a male-dominated industry, certainly not in France. “It’s the opposite,” she said Florence, of TraXall France. “At TraXall, only a third of the operators are men and all the customer service managers are women. With regards to our customers, most of our contacts are women too. I have never seen any gender differentiation: in this sector, women often hold senior positions.”
One Fleet Operator from TraXall Belgium agreed, saying female representation is becoming more prevalent across the industry. She said: “I do see a shift, I see more and more female representatives, fleet operators, fleet managers etc. I work for a number of clients and 80 per cent of my contacts are women.”
What do you think is behind this change?
Rather than seeing their female status as defining, many of our colleagues saw it as incidental. Growing recognition in the industry that the requisite skillset is valued above all else has helped to change access to opportunities.
One TraXall Belgium Fleet Operator said: “Women are more empowered, have more self-esteem, are willing and able to juggle a full personal life as well as a fulfilling career and this attitude shows in career choices – not just in the automotive world.”
Her Portuguese peer said that in today’s world, there are no roles for men and women but instead there are “functions that must be performed, by those who have more knowledge and experience.”
What do you like most about your role and why do you think more women should consider entering the fleet industry?
Although being female has no bearing on the ability to perform a job, our employees found that the female touch can often be an advantage in the sector, bringing another dimension to how companies operate and engage with clients.
Malika, of TraXall France, said: “Working in this sector, even if I arrived here by chance, allows me to contribute my stone to the building. Women should not forbid themselves from this or that sector on the grounds that it seems to correspond only to men. Everyone is able to arrive where they want to, if they really want to.”
“Let’s break down the invisible barriers!”
Malika’s Swiss colleague agreed, saying: “In my opinion, there should be a healthy mixture in gender representatives for every industry – especially in the automotive industry, because there are many female clients who can be better understood if there are female opinions represented in customer care.”
TraXall Germany’s Katy said: “It’s a very dynamic industry where you can make a big difference. The fleet and mobility industry affects us all, so it’s essential to have a high level of diversity. The industry offers something for every taste and preference. Whether you want to focus on technology, service, the environment, or you’re more concerned with social issues, women can find opportunities in every area.”
What needs to change in the fleet industry to make it a more female-friendly and female-empowering environment?
Our employees found that rather than the industry having to change to fit with the modern female-empowering narrative, the emphasis should be on creating equal opportunities – and abolishing the glass ceiling, rather than shattering it.
“I do not consider that a change is needed in the fleet industry to make it more female-friendly,” said TraXall International’s Marta.
“I believe that each person has their own style, and that it is very important to defuse stereotypes. These begin to manifest from a very early age, so it is necessary to change systems and environments to deactivate the contextual factors that promote them and inhibit the performance of women at work.
“It is really important that all of us make visible the achievements of women. Disseminate female references in leadership positions to promote women’s self-confidence in their talents and boost their leadership.”
Female empowerment should be more subliminal, with the achievements of female leaders lauded to the same degree as their male counterparts and equal space given to women in the workplace.
“Once other women realise that the percentage of women is increasing, this insecurity will soon subside,” said one German colleague.
How do you feel TraXall supports its female employees, in terms of representation and opportunities?
Our employees were keen to highlight that, at TraXall, skills resolutely take precedence over gender.
Katy, of TraXall Germany, said: “At TraXall, the focus is on competence and commitment, not on gender.”
An administrator at TraXall Netherlands agrees: “TraXall gives women the same opportunity as men.”
On a final note, Florence, of TraXall France, wanted to ensure that the gender balance is maintained and does not tip too far the other way.
“On this particular subject, TraXall is at the top of the list,” she said. “Anyone can apply for any job and have the same opportunity to fill the position. In the operations department, the managers are mainly women, but a new position is now open and we are looking forward to both female and male applications!”