The theme of International Women’s Day this year is inspiring inclusion.

But what does this mean for an industry that still has a reputation for being set in its ways?  

To many, the car industry is still feared as a bit of an ‘old boys’ club.

When you think of popping down to your local dealership, you may picture that stereotypical ‘80s vibe; flashy wrist watches, ill-fitting suits and a lingering scent of cigar smoke coming from the boss’s office.

And the women – if there are any – are only there to provide tea and coffee, and maybe the punchline of an oily joke.

Or maybe that’s just me thinking of that 2008 Cold Case episode, The Dealer, centred (you guessed it) around a shady car dealership.

Yes, the lone female salesperson in the episode ends up dead.

And no, I’d never suggest that the bodies of women who work in the motor trade are in imminent danger of ending up stuffed into the locked boot of a car.

But the casual and pointed misogyny depicted in this fictional dealership has lingered in the mind for 16 years after this episode originally aired. Partly it’s because Cold Case was brilliant TV for those of us who love a good whodunit story.

But mostly it’s that this particular episode is just an exaggerated example of the attitude some people still expect to find in the motor trade – that it’s not somewhere women deserve to take up space.

Like every other industry, the world of cars and automobiles is one in which everyone deserves a seat at the table. But, rightly or wrongly, negative perceptions of the car world linger on.

So, as we think about International Women’s Day, it seems only fitting that the theme this year is to inspire inclusion.

But what does that mean for us?

And where does the industry need to start?

Woman hugging her car bonnet while smiling

Challenges with recruitment 

The car trade is no small player when it comes to the UK economy: it’s a big contributor to employment and economic growth.

But the world is changing, and the automotive sector is seeing big shifts away from its traditional framework, with the focus moving to electric vehicles and a new infrastructure to go with them.

And these shifts are highlighting challenges on the horizon. Not only is it time to say goodbye to fossil fuels, but also the old way of doing things.

The Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI) has identified 10 drivers for skills change in the UK automotive industry in the next two years, starting with recent challenges filling essential roles.

In January 2023, the motor industry recorded the highest vacancy rate in 21 years – and it’s still climbing. Out of every 100 jobs, 5.1 are unfilled. So essentially, there’s a big talent deficit in the industry right now which could only get worse if it’s not tackled strategically.

And, depending on how industry leaders approach it, this could be an opportunity for radical change.

Just look at the technician workforce; at the moment, only 18% of UK car technicians are trained to work on EV’s, yet the number of electric cars on our roads is set to increase dramatically in the lead up to the 2035 deadline. We’ve already seen the number of new EV registrations in 2023 come second only to petrol cars

So, it’s more important than ever that industry leaders proactively plan for the future and draw from a diverse, dynamic pool of candidates so that the right person is in the right role.

This could mean more opportunities for women to enter and succeed in the industry.

Sound exciting?

We think so too.

Woman dressed in grey suit and yellow shirt getting out of her car and looking at her phone

How to attract new talent to the motor industry

Alright, so experts have acknowledged we need a more diverse industry to meet rising manufacturing demands and the shift towards no-emission vehicles. Great!

But how are we do to that when negative perceptions about it are still sticking?

Industry leaders need to address the barriers that are stopping new talent from seeking out a career in the motor trade. This includes concerns around undervalued and underpaid skills, the gender pay gap, and adequate representation. In fact, these are just some of the changes we would like to see in the motor industry. 

Addressing the pay gap

The gender pay gap is an ongoing issue worldwide and the motor trade is no exception.

Data collected in the USA shows that the average male employee at a franchised dealership makes three times as much as his female colleagues.

We’ve previously looked at the pay gap and how it could shut out female consumers from the EV revolution. But this new research shows it could be a key factor in shutting female employees out of the industry itself.

In a survey conducted by Automotive News and Deloitte, only 53% of women surveyed described the motor industry as being well-paid.

In fact, further research has demonstrated that – certainly in the USA – the gender pay gap is worse in the motor industry than the national average. That’s not exactly an incentive for people to hop on board. 

If leaders want to attract a wider talent pool of candidates, fair pay is something they need to address urgently or they won't succeed in drawing women into our industry over other sectors that are doing more on this issue. 

Group of friends in their car looking at road map


It is well documented that flexibility makes a workplace more accessible and attractive to many, and can become a non-negotiable for job hunters. Undoubtedly an easy inclusivity win for those who can support it.

However, alongside many other retail and customer service oriented sectors, the automotive industry is lagging behind. This means the attraction of these positions can be limited to a certain candidate pool.

Where possible, industry leaders need to adapt to the needs of a broader workforce if they want to attract a wider talent pool.

Inspiring inclusion 

Admittedly, there’s a lot the motor trade needs to improve on if it wants to encourage people to switch careers.

But one thing we can do is push greater visibility of the talented women we already have working in the trade.

Last year, Carparison launched an award-winning female-only sales phoneline to great success. The intention was to encourage more people to step into the driving seat of their lease, by making the sales process feel more accessible. 

But it’s also been an opportunity to show the world how we do things differently – and why it’s important to keep on breaking the mould. 

When we say there is room for everyone at the table, we mean it. We’re never going to be one of those companies that advise women to come back with their husband or partner – which does still happen in some showrooms. 

(This writer’s mother was completely dismissed during the car-buying process just last year – the sales rep would only engage with her husband.

Needless to say, they did not buy a car from that particular dealership.) 

Not only do we want all customers to feel seen and heard, we feel it's important our values are reflected in our staff from the top down. 

Family looking through front window of their car and smiling

Thankfully, we’re not alone in driving the power of inclusion home.

Women Drive Electric UK is one such initiative joining us in our campaign to make the industry more inclusive. It’s a wonderful online community built by women for women, talking about all things EV-related and how to engage women in the car buying process.

Founded by pioneering female members of the industry, it’s a space where’s it’s “safe to ask questions without anyone feeling intimidated or out of their depth, for women who already own an EV, are in the process of ordering, or who have yet to make the switch."

It’s this sort of visibility and representation for women that is really going to promote inclusivity – which is important, not just for International Women’s day, but for the successful future of the motor industry. 

We're saying farewell to stereotypes once and for all

Chloe Allen

Chloe Allen

Our Digital Marketing Executive Chloe is in charge of our e-newsletter. There's no one better placed to inform and delight you every month, so keep your eyes peeled for her newsletter hitting an email inbox near you soon.