Women have made great strides in the five years since Automotive News first profiled 100 Leading Women in the North American Auto Industry. But automakers, suppliers and dealership groups ought to do more to help women advance to the top.
Part of the problem has been changing the industry's traditional male-dominated culture, which stresses long hours and servitude to the company.
In 2003, women accounted for just 15.7 percent of the executives and managers in the motor vehicle manufacturing industry, according to data from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
By comparison, 25.6 percent of executives and managers in the computer and office equipment industry were women. Newspaper publishing and printing had 34.8 percent. Commercial banks had 48.8 percent. The U.S. average for all industries was 36.5 percent.
Female auto executives say more must be done to keep talented women in the auto industry. Some suggest formal mentoring programs. Others advocate a family-friendly corporate culture that allows employees greater leeway to schedule their workday.
And companies should offer talented female executives the right mix of assignments to enable them to move up the corporate ladder. Although many women have advanced in their own disciplines, few have the depth of experience needed to make the short list for a CEO position.
As companies adopt those measures, they will attract more of the best people -- male and female -- who currently refuse to consider an automotive career. That will benefit everyone.