Women in car careers are still not where they should be

SAN FRANCISCO -- The push to get more women in leadership roles is spreading beyond the halls of automakers.

It’s alive here at the National Automobile Dealers Association convention and it’s moving into the schools.

I attended a dinner sponsored by the Women’s Automotive Association International to honor women in leadership roles last night. It was enlightening.

There were three honorees. Part of the reason for the low count is because this is still such a male-dominated business. Yet, about 80 percent of all new vehicle purchases are made by or influenced by women.

And the irony of that isn’t lost on this association. As board member Karolyn Hart said to me:

“Can you imagine if Revlon had no women executives?”

But school-age girls just aren’t being encouraged to pursue math and consider careers in engineering, auto design and this business, Hart says.

So Hart and the Women’s Automotive Association are tweaking their mission a bit.

They are partnering with non-profit groups such as Educate Tomorrow to start getting the message to young girls about automotive careers. And they’re going to ask female dealers to go into schools and discuss their careers to girls as young as elementary age.

The goal is simple, Hart says: “We want these girls to say, ‘When I grow up, I want to design the coolest car in the world.’”

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