Any female executive or manager working in the automotive industry — heck, any woman working at almost any industrial company — knows what it means to be the only female in the room. All through her professional life, she has often been in that situation — not once but many, many times — and the higher up you go the more that is the case. Even in 2021.
She knows what it means to have to be always on, always careful about what she says. When you are the only one, you feel sometimes as if you represent all women, so the pressure is intense. You feel as if you're always needing to prove that you deserve a seat at the table and belong in that room. There is pressure to be one of the guys. One executive talked about not wearing much makeup to fit in.
Bottom line: It's hard to be yourself and that can be exhausting.
Recently, I sat down with seven female senior executives from the U.S. auto industry to ask what they learned on their path to executive leadership. It was part of a Women in Leadership project that Oliver Wyman has conducted for the past five years in time for Women's History Month. Oliver Wyman researchers spoke with more than 160 senior female leaders in business and surveyed more than 300 male and female executives on the gender leadership gap. While we are seeing progress as we celebrate women's accomplishments this month, the glass ceiling still only has cracks.