It’s no secret that the automotive industry has been pretty male-dominated throughout history. Whatever the reasons may be, whether it be women not being taken seriously, women not being interested enough, women not being made aware of jobs in the field or a combination of those, the auto industry has been dominated by men for decades. However, the current females in the industry want to bring more female talent in and BMW, among other automakers, are trying to help.
Martina Starke is BMW’s current head of color and trim design, material technology and design quality and claims that the industry is changing for the better, in this regard. “The car industry is still very male but that is changing,” Starke told Automotive News Europe. “When I started in BMW we had no women in exterior design. Now we have more. We also have more females [in the design department] than in other parts of BMW.”
And design, both interior and exterior, seems to be a place where female employees seem to gravitate to. It’s an area where female employees seem comfortable with and excel at, according to Claudia Braun, head of color and trim for Mercedes-Benz. “The car is becoming more and more a lifestyle product,” Braun told ANE. “The technical aspects are changing and jobs in the car industry are changing as well. You have to communicate a lot, work holistically and be open to changes. Women feel very familiar with these requirements.”
But it isn’t just color and trim levels that women are excelling at, in terms of design. Michelle Christensen recently was in charge of leading the exterior design of the Acura NSX. For those who don’t already know, the NSX is the halo-car for the Honda brand and is a mid-engine supercar icon. So being in charge of the redesign is a huge honor. And if you haven’t yet seen the new NSX, it’s a stunning car. So Christensen crushed it.
We don’t know why there aren’t enough females in the auto industry but it is something that needs to change and is, in fact, changing for the better. According to Agneta Dahlgren, who designs Renault’s compact cars, the industry needs to do a better at educating females. “Do girls have exactly the same interest in cars as boys when they are very young? It’s difficult to say. I’m not sure girls are not born to play with cars, but we educate boys and girls differently from the beginning,” said Dahlgren. “What we do know is that fewer girls end up in automotive design schools.”
So while the industry still isn’t perfect, and still mostly male-dominated, it’s getting better and real change is happening for the better.