automotive

DEI in Auto

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In the ever-evolving landscape of automotive diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) emerge as pivotal forces.

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DEI in Auto

This guide sheds light on the importance of DEI in reshaping the modern automotive world. Dive in to understand the past, see the present challenges, and envision a future where DEI drives innovation and growth.

The evolution of DEI in auto

The automotive industry, tracing its roots back to the invention of the wheel, has been a beacon of human ingenuity and progress. Over the decades, it has given us iconic vehicles, groundbreaking technologies, and has driven economies. But as we delve deeper into its intricate tapestry, certain patterns emerge that warrant attention.

Historically, the automotive sector has been a stronghold of male influence. While women make up approximately half of the global labor force, their representation in the automotive industry paints a different picture. According to a study by Deloitte, women constitute only a quarter of the auto manufacturing workforce. This disparity isn’t just limited to manufacturing roles. A NewsNation report points out that women hold a mere 8% of executive positions in the auto industry.

Geographically, the industry has seen clusters of innovation and manufacturing. Regions like Detroit in the USA, Stuttgart in Germany, and Toyota City in Japan have become synonymous with automotive excellence. This concentration, while fostering innovation in these hubs, has sometimes led to a narrow perspective, missing out on diverse global insights.

The findings further indicate that only one-fifth of all automotive jobs are held by women. Such underrepresentation underscores the need for a more inclusive approach, tapping into diverse talent pools for a richer, more holistic perspective on automotive design, manufacturing, and marketing.

As we navigate the future of the automotive world, understanding these historical and present patterns is crucial. It’s not just about bridging gender gaps; it’s about harnessing diverse thoughts, experiences, and innovations to drive the industry to new pinnacles of success.

Why DEI Matters in Auto

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Fuels Creativity and Innovation

Diverse teams bring a myriad of perspectives, experiences, and problem-solving approaches. When individuals from different backgrounds, cultures, and genders collaborate, they challenge the status quo. This challenge often leads to out-of-the-box thinking, fostering creativity. In an industry that’s rapidly integrating artificial intelligence (AI), electric powertrains, and autonomous driving, such creativity is the lifeblood of innovation.

For instance, a team with varied cultural backgrounds might provide insights into regional driving habits, leading to the development of features tailored for specific markets. A gender-diverse team can shed light on safety or ergonomic features that might be overlooked in a male-dominated setting.

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Better Understanding of The Global Market

The automotive industry is global, with markets spanning from the bustling streets of Tokyo to the expansive highways of the American Midwest. Each region has its unique challenges, preferences, and requirements. A diverse team, with members hailing from different parts of the world, can offer firsthand insights into these nuances.

Imagine the advantage of having a team member who understands the traffic dynamics of Mumbai when developing an autonomous driving algorithm; or the value of someone who’s experienced the harsh winters of Scandinavia when designing a car’s heating system. These insights can be the difference between a product’s success and failure in a particular market.

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Diverse Teams and Product Development

When it comes to product development, diversity plays a pivotal role. Cars are no longer just machines; they’re a blend of technology, luxury, and personal expression. To cater to a global audience with varied tastes and preferences, the industry needs teams that mirror this diversity.

A diverse design team can bring varied aesthetic sensibilities, ensuring that a car appeals to a broader audience. Similarly, a diverse engineering team can innovate solutions that cater to different driving conditions, be it the autobahns of Germany or the rugged terrains of Africa.

Challenges in Achieving DEI in Auto

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Gender Disparities

One of the most glaring issues in the automotive sector is the gender disparity. While women have made significant strides in various roles, their representation in leadership positions remains woefully inadequate. According to various studies, including the one by Deloitte, women constitute only a fraction of the top echelons in automotive companies. This disparity isn’t just a numbers game; it’s a loss of diverse perspectives and leadership styles that can drive innovation and corporate growth.

 

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Cultural Biases and Regional Hubs

The automotive industry’s history is deeply intertwined with specific regions – Detroit’s Motor City legacy, Germany’s engineering prowess, or Japan’s technological advancements. While these hubs have been powerhouses of innovation, they’ve also inadvertently fostered cultural biases. These biases can sometimes lead to a myopic view, favoring designs, features, or technologies that cater primarily to the local or regional market, potentially overlooking global trends or needs.

 

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Challenges in Building a Diverse Talent Pool

Promoting diversity in specialized roles presents its own set of challenges. Fields like automotive design, engineering, and leadership have traditionally seen a lack of representation from diverse groups. This isn’t just a hiring issue; it’s a pipeline problem. The lack of diverse candidates in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education, cultural stereotypes, and biases in recruitment processes all contribute to this challenge.

Moreover, retaining diverse talent is equally crucial. The industry needs to foster an environment where diverse voices feel valued, heard, and see a clear path to growth. Without such an environment, even if diverse talent is recruited, they might not stay for long, seeking industries or companies where inclusivity isn’t just a policy but a lived reality.

Tips for Navigating the Path to DEI in Automotive

The automotive industry, with its vast reach and influence, has the potential to be a beacon of inclusivity. However, achieving true diversity, equity, and inclusion requires more than just intent; it demands actionable strategies. Here are some pivotal steps the industry can take to champion DEI:

Inclusive Recruitment and Hiring

The journey to inclusivity begins at the recruitment stage. Companies should adopt hiring practices that eliminate biases, ensuring that job descriptions are neutral and don’t inadvertently deter any group. Using AI-driven tools can help sift through applications without prejudice, ensuring that the process is based solely on merit. Additionally, organizations should actively seek candidates from diverse backgrounds, ensuring a richer talent pool.

Mentorship and Sponsorship Programs

Mentorship can be a game-changer, especially for underrepresented groups. By pairing newcomers with seasoned professionals, companies can ensure smoother onboarding, faster skill acquisition, and a sense of belonging. Sponsorship goes a step further. Sponsors don’t just guide; they advocate for their protégés, ensuring they get the opportunities they deserve. Such programs can be instrumental in ensuring that diverse talent not only joins but grows within the organization.

Resource Groups and DEI Councils

Creating dedicated groups or councils focused on DEI can have multiple benefits. These groups can act as think tanks, suggesting DEI initiatives, pointing out areas of concern, and being the voice of various communities within the organization. They can also provide safe spaces for discussions, ensuring that every employee feels heard and valued.

 

Global Collaboration

Awareness is the first step towards change. Hosting regular workshops that focus on recognizing and breaking biases can be transformative. These sessions, led by DEI experts, can help employees understand the nuances of unconscious biases, microaggressions, and the importance of an inclusive environment. Training sessions can also equip teams with tools and strategies to foster inclusivity in their day-to-day interactions and decisions.

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DEI data pulled from HRIS or employee surveys that help leaders understand if action is needed within their organization while providing a deeper understanding of their teams. This data can be used to identify existing biases, gaps, or issues and work to improve them.

“We needed a solution that could be customized for our unique situation, which Diversio has been able to do. And we needed a company that has global experience. We needed to slice and dice the data in multiple ways and visualize the data in clear and accessible ways and you know Diversio’s survey and platform ticked all the boxes.”
Ekua Quansah (she/her)
Head of Equity, Diversity, & Inclusion
Canadian Institute for Advanced Research
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