UK automotive industry pledges to address diversity shortfall

Posted on 28 Nov 2023 by The Manufacturer

Some of Britain’s biggest automotive companies have today pledged that women will represent 30% of their workforce within the next six years, in a bid to drive gender diversity across all roles and levels.

The commitment by the Automotive Council, whose members represent 99% of British vehicle manufacturing and half of the UK’s automotive workforce, is a significant short-term challenge given that just under 20% of the sector’s workforce is today female. 1 For an industry that prides itself on innovation but which must address some fundamental changes in terms of technology, skills and disruption, fixing this shortfall is essential if it is to have future success.

The initiative comes as the Council today launches a new best practice guide, Shifting Gears: How to better recruit and retain women in the UK automotive sector, to provide forward-thinking businesses across the industry – from car and commercial vehicle manufacturing to supply chain and the aftermarket – with the tools needed to improve gender diversity across all levels. The report is just one of the sector’s initiatives to drive positive change, after the Council last year launched industry’s first ever Diversity Charter. As more businesses double down on their commitment to ensure their practices and workforce are representative, progressive and inclusive, Charter signatories have since grown by a fifth.

Delivering a more diverse, equitable and inclusive (DE&I) workforce is critical, not just to deliver social change but to boost business performance. DE&I is an issue of competitiveness and can lead to demonstrable improvements in productivity, supporting top talent recruitment; raising employee satisfaction, decision making and creativity, and increasing both profitability and value creation. DE&I is, of course, not only limited to gender, with other aspects including age, disability, ethnicity, neurodiversity, race, social mobility and sexual orientation, and Automotive Council members are also continuing to implement additional measure to address any representation shortfalls that exist among these groups.

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive and Chair of the Automotive Council UK Competitiveness and Business Environment Group, said, “With so much change taking place across the automotive sector, recruiting the brightest and the best is essential to the future success of the industry. The industry has often been perceived – and the facts back it up – as male dominated. We need to change this quickly; gender balance is not just about ‘doing the right thing’, it’s demonstrably good for business. The sector should always be representative of the communities in which it is based and the societies it serves so addressing gender imbalance is non-negotiable.”

With some 14,000 new jobs having been created or expected as a result of UK automotive investment in recent months, there has never been a more exciting time to join the industry, for people of all ages and backgrounds, from school leavers to career changers. From producing electric cars to repairing hydrogen trucks and developing increasingly automated vehicles – there is a broad range of cutting-edge opportunities for prospective recruits to find their dream job. With the automotive sector already facing an acute skills shortage across all levels and roles, the industry must ensure it is attractive to – and recruits from – every section of society if it is to ensure it has the very brightest and the best.

The 27 Charter signatories commit to take action in eight key areas with the aim of accelerating progress across all aspects of DE&I within their own companies. These include introducing robust diversity and inclusion practices, a board-level champion and improving recruitment practices to remove bias, encourage diversity of applicants and increase the diversity of talent pipelines at every level. Businesses in the automotive sector interested in becoming signatories can contact the Automotive Council secretariat here for more information.

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