A number of ‘disconnects’ between perception and reality are holding back attempts to bridge the so-called gender divide which exists in the motor industry, according to accounting firm EY.

In a late 2015 survey, the firm found over half of leaders (56%) acknowledged women were an underused talent, but that the share of senior and managerial positions in the US motor industry actually fell between 2009 and 2013.

According to EY, there are five disconnects which are slowing the attempts to create a more gender diverse workforce and leadership team.

The first was that EY found the majority of leadership teams thought the gender diversity problem was nearly solved, despite little progress being made within their own companies. 62% of automotive respondents said they had sufficient diversity of thought and experience within the leadership team.

The second was that few companies are taking the sort of actions required around gender diversity to address it, despite acknowledging a looming talent crisis. Nine out of 10 companies said they needed to dramatically change their approach to attracting, promoting and retaining talent, with just one in 10 saying they were effective at attracting women.

There was also a disconnect in what men and women perceived as most valuable in creating a more gender diverse work force. For example, 59% of men thought flexible work arrangements were important, compared to 17% of women, while 47% of men said a shortage of female candidates was a barrier, compared to 6% of women.

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EY also said more automotive companies need to effectively measure progress on gender diversity. In this regard Europe led the way with 70% of companies formally measuring gender diversity, compared to 50% in North America.

The fifth disconnect EY termed the ‘progress disconnect’. It said: "Business leaders overwhelmingly believe that diversity of thought and experience will be key to navigating the challenges of disruption. However, sectors are making uneven progress toward gender parity."


EY said there were three basic actions a company could take to try and increase gender diversity in its leadership team. These are: Include more women in the leadership pipeline; encourage senior leaders to be sponsors and create a culture of diversity and inclusion.

The firm advised women to seek mentors, expand their network, take charge of their careers and set their own priorities.
Finally, it advised men to become a mentor or sponsor, make networking opportunities more inclusive and check for bias in their decision making.

Janet Barnard, president of Manheim North America, said: "If ever there were a time, an opportunity for women in this industry, this is the time because we need talent in this industry. As women, we need to lean in and step in and compete for these roles and try to get the old paradigms out of our heads that this is a man’s world. It won’t always be a man’s world."