How Women Are Expanding Their Roles in the Automotive Industry
For far too long, the automotive industry has been dominated by male leaders. But as the world continues moving forward to a diverse and equitable future, women leaders are arising who are taking the automotive industry into the future.
One such leader is Pamela Fletcher, the VP of Global Electric Vehicle Programs at General Motors. She oversaw the creation and development of the electric Chevrolet Bolt EV. Under her guidance, the company will launch more than 20 all-electric cars by 2023. In a recent interview with MarieClaire.com, she talked about her start in the automotive industry and how she’s watched it evolve.
Her example is one of many that demonstrate how women are expanding their roles in the automotive industry, how they brought about these changes, and how they will continue to do so into the future.
Coaching and Mentoring
As more people like Pamela Fletcher and General Motors CEO Mary Barra arrive in positions of authority and leadership within automotive companies, they become prime candidates for mentorship and coaching. As Fletcher says herself, “Coaching and mentoring is not wasted time.” The network of women leaders supporting women coming out of college and entering the automotive industry for the first time is essential to the continued growth of women leadership.
It is common for the leadership of any industry to be watching for its successor in order to offer opportunities and wisdom to guide the next generation. For those who have had to fight their way into these positions, they are now able to offer the embedded support and guidance necessary to gain access to new insights and perspectives young industry professionals bring.
Question and Learn
Fletcher discussed her own childhood, growing up in the garage with her father and constantly asking questions about every tool and learning how all the engine parts worked together. She carried that experience with her into school, always asking questions and seeking answers to topics she was interested in.
Women leaders are teaching the next generation of industry experts and young girls dreaming of one day being leaders in the auto industry to be unintimidated and constantly curious. Only by learning everything possible about—and being comfortable around—cars will the next generation rise to be leaders in the industry.
To this day, Fletcher said, she still gets together with her fellow women she met in her programs at college, though their busy schedules in the industry make it possible only every so often. It was her network back then that, though it was small, supported her progress through school, into the industry, and eventually into the position she has today.
Networks that support emerging women leadership are important to make sure women receive the opportunities to be the leaders they know they can be in the industry. Fletcher reflected on how, early in her career, she focused on keeping her head down and doing the work, but her number-one piece of advice to rising stars was to “appreciate the value of the network.” As leaders look out for and sponsor others, the industry continues to grow in a healthy way, and Fletcher saw and supported huge strides towards this transformation.
The support of women in positions of leadership goes a long way to leading the auto industry to a diverse and equitable future. As women continue to expand their roles in the industry, they make space and build support for the next generation of interested and skilled women in the auto industry, which in turn will establish the new leaders of the future.
As technology changes the auto industry, so too will this variety of experience, perspectives, and skills.