More is to be done to get women in the driving seat

Not a single car company in the world is run by a woman. The highest-ranking woman in the automotive industry is Mary Barra, who leads the design, engineering and quality of General Motor’s 11 global brands. She started at the automaker company aged 18 to afford tuition while she sought an electrical engineering degree and appears to defy the glass ceiling.

In an industry traditionally recognised to be male-dominated, two employees at one of the North East’s leading motor equipment suppliers are calling for more women to view the industry as a female-friendly environment with ample career opportunities.

Brenna Blades is one of the newest faces to the team at Morpeth-based Gott Technical Services, taking up the role of administration assistant at the end of 2012. The 20-year-old, who studied Animal Management at college, believes there is not enough done to demonstrate the vast array of automotive careers available to young people – and young females in particular.

Brenna said: “I didn’t have any preconceptions about the industry – but also hadn’t ever considered it as a viable career route – however, on reading the credentials required, I felt confident I could fulfil the role. My time here has flown by since joining the team and I’m keen to share my positive experience to inspire other young women to consider a career in the industry.

“My parents run a taxi company and my boyfriend is an automotive technician specialising in panels, so I enjoy being able to talk about car repair and maintenance with them – especially my Dad who is an ex-motor mechanic and father to three girls. It’s also really rewarding to see the finished product of a workshop fit-out whether it’s a dealership or an educational facility.

“As a specialist field, I think that most people aren’t aware of all of the jobs that exist within the industry and so it’s not in their initial mindset when searching for a career. However, the reality is that academic and practical skills of all varieties can be applied to at least one role. I love being able to respond to clients’ technical queries and am hoping to learn how to calibrate MOT equipment soon.”

Vivienne Gibbs has also immersed herself in an unfamiliar industry since joining Gott Technical Services as client development executive from previously working at a hygiene company in June 2011. A recent promotion saw Vivienne appointed as business manager of the company within two years of being in the trade.

Vivienne said: “In the same sense that I haven’t experienced any prejudice since working at Gott Technical Services, there is also a distinct male majority in my line of work. Almost half of the Gott team is female but I liaise with, and visit dealerships and garages on a daily basis, and am still surprised to not come into contact with more women in roles here.

“Despite only being in the industry for two years, I have seen a very slight trend towards more females in service adviser and service manager positions. I remember meeting the service manager at one of our client’s dealerships about six months into my role – the first woman I had dealt with outside the office – and being very impressed by her.

“However to date, I am yet to meet a female technician. This is definitely an area that needs to actively seek more females for recruiting positions. At the same time, it is important that women looking for a career change at any age understand the diverse opportunities that are available in the industry. Transferable skills exist in all roles so it’s just a matter of adapting – you don’t have to be an expert in cars.”

Gott Technical Services director Ian Gott is passionate about opening up the automotive sector and encouraging more women into it at all levels. Ian said: “We recruit the right person for the job, male or female regardless, but the difference in levels of interest in new positions across the genders is apparent. In all the years we have advertised for an engineer, a female has never applied.

“Vivienne quickly established herself in the team and has built up a great rapport with the clients during her time here so far. Brenna has also been a real asset since joining and shows huge enthusiasm in all of her work.”

Ian believes the industry should be made more aware of how male dominated it is compared to other industries and it should be made a priority to promote automotive careers to females.  

Ian concludes: “For Vivienne and Brenna, Gott Technical Services was their first experience of the automotive industry but they have both excelled in their areas. It should certainly be more of a strategic industry agenda to bring in talent from other backgrounds and with different skills-sets.”

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