Despite working in an industry that says it wants and needs more female leaders, women in automotive say they continue to face subtle and overt biases that stall their careers and in some cases are so bad they push women out of the industry for good.
Automotive News conducted a survey of women at all levels and in all segments of the industry. Nearly 900 women took the survey, titled Project XX, which looked at four main areas: Feedback and promotion; harassment and safety; inclusion; and unconscious bias.
The responses had astonishing similarities and showed that sexism is alive and well in the auto industry. Many women reported being asked inappropriate questions during the hiring process; women are routinely expected to conduct lower-level tasks, such as watering the office plants, despite having executive titles; women are excluded from after-work social networking events (which sometimes still happen at strip clubs); and the majority of women say they’ve been subjected to unwanted sexual advances from bosses, colleagues and customers.
We conducted the survey in the spring and set Oct. 23 as the publication date to give us time to pull together in-depth stories and polish the presentation. We had no idea sexism and sexual harassment would become a burning issue this month on the heels of news that Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein had reached at least eight settlements with women over allegations of unwanted sexual advances and harassment. Since the news broke in The New York Times on Oct. 5, dozens of women have come forward and said they, too, had been harassed or assaulted by Weinstein.
The news has prompted women in many industries to begin talking about their experiences, and last week, women took to social media posting the words “Me too” if they’d been harassed or attacked in the past, hoping their numbers would show men the scope of the issue.
Under the protection of anonymity provided by the Project XX Survey, women were willing to open up and discuss their experiences without fear of reprisal or retribution. But getting people to talk on the record was more difficult — many companies turned down our requests for on-the-record interviews with female executives on this topic, and others who would talk to us asked for anonymity to protect their jobs.