In his 16 years as president and CEO of Toyota Financial Services, George Borst created the most diverse management team in TFS history, gender-wise. For this achievement, he received the Outstanding CEO award from Linkage’s Women in Leadership Institute. Borst retired in September 2013, but he’s still serving as an executive adviser for TFS.
Borst didn’t just hire women; he encouraged them to network and mentor one another, which is an important factor in women’s advancement. He was an advocate for Toyota’s resource group for its female employees, TORQUE (I do not know what that stands for, but I’d love to). Its annual conference of women from North American Toyota affiliates grew to 200 participants, nearly doubling its attendance in three years.
Ford hearts women. And their cash.
Here’s a quick recap after spending two days wandering the floor of the Los Angeles Convention Center for the 2013 LA Auto Show press preview:
All the Ladies in the House Equals One: I attended a couple dozen press conferences, and I noticed that only one was presented by a woman. That would be the GM lunchtime press conference on the second day, when Cristi Landy, marketing director for Chevy’s small cars, introduced two new variants of the Chevy Sonic. There were plenty of women journalists and PR people and everything else, but when it came time to tell hundreds of journalists what was new with their companies, all but one had a man tell us all what was what. (Side note: I met Landy last summer at a Chevy Spark event, and she’s super cool. She’s very supportive of girls in STEM.)
You’ve Got Money, and They Want It: There were plenty of cars with traditional masculine appeal, like the new 2014 Corvette Stingray or the massive Ford Super Duty trucks on display. But there were tons of cars aimed right at you and your pretty little wallets, ladies. Crossovers, efficient yet practical hybrids, electric cars that can fit your kids — car companies are getting hip to who holds the literal purse strings in most households in the twenty-first century. Don’t let them forget it. Buy what speaks to you and what works for you from dealerships that respect your decisions.
Don’t Dis the Models: I started attending auto shows as a freelancer in 2007. Since then, the ladies in the high heels and shapewear who stand next to the cars have learned to use their brains as well as their beauty. These women are a valuable resource for press and public alike. If you go to an auto show (especially a big one like LA, Detroit, Chicago, or New York), don’t hesitate to ask these women questions — they have committed the stats and features to memory for all the cars in their section. Do not mistake them for dumb bunnies anymore.
Women may not have been the economic powerhouse in 1924 that they are in 2013, but smart marketers recognized that men weren’t the only ones taking care of business even back then. In honor of Henry Ford’s 150th birthday, Ford released a handful of vintage ads, like this one, aimed at women.
In another ad from the same year, Ford calls the modern woman “a business manager of the home,” lauding her close attention to the household budget. That still rings true, due to women’s influence over 80% of household purchases in the twenty-first century. And in a third ad from this campaign, Ford even acknowledges that women might have things to do other than hover over their kids: “With a Ford closed car she can share [her children’s] good times and yet hold to the necessary schedule of her day.”
Not every woman who makes a difference in the automotive industry is an engineer or scientist — it only seems that way if you read most of my blog or check out the posts on my Take the Wheel Facebook page. Some women, like Faith Stewart, community affairs manager for the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company in Akron, Ohio, are making a difference using communication skills and service.
Stewart was awarded the Women’s Network of Northeast Ohio 2013 Woman of Achievement honor in June for her work with community and charitable outreach programs for Goodyear, which she’s led since 2003. The Women’t Network of Northeast Ohio gives the award each year to women who encourage success among women, mentor, and support women’s progress toward full participation in economic, community, and family life.
In the debate over whether women — or even men — can have it all, or if there is such a thing as work-life balance, Stewart and her fellow honorees (there were four total this year) are giving it their best shot and helping other women to give it their best shot too.
On May 22, 2013 — well into the twenty-first century — the respected Society of Automotive Engineering Foundation finally awarded its Industry Leadership award to a woman, Mary Barra, who is the senior vice president of global product development at General Motors. Streamers and high fives!
Granted, there haven’t been a whole lot of women at the top of the automotive industry ladder to give this award to in the past century. But it is nice when the person who tops the leadership list also happens to be a woman.
Barra said GM would donate the first 2014 Cadillac CTS Vsport off the production line to the SAE Foundation’s STEM student outreach programs. The car will be auctioned off by Barrett-Jackson at a later 2013 sale. While the foundation’s funds don’t target girls specifically, I’d like to think that an excellent example like Barra will encourage a few girls to step up to the STEM and take advantage of the opportunity.
Buy this bad-ass 2014 Cadillac CTS, support STEM!
There are probably a hundred reasons why Sheryl Connelly should be named one of Fast Company’s 100 Most Creative People in Business for 2013, but I’ll give you three:
- Her official title is Futurist, which sounds like science fiction, which is so very cool. Actually, she looks at trends in technology, society, and economy to determine what will interest consumers in the future. It takes a long time to design and build a car, and she knows what you’re going to need from your next car before you’ve put the first tank of gas in your current car.
- She’s the only person on the list from the automotive industry, which says a lot about the automotive industry, no?
- She’s in Take the Wheel. I interviewed her about women’s buying habits and values, and how those impact a woman’s choices at the dealership. She noted that after the economic meltdown of 2008, everyone expected consumers to put a lock on the purse strings and buy only the cheapest stuff, be it cars or clothes, no matter what it is or how it’s made. Connelly’s research says otherwise: “I think people will hold on to their values, and they’ll scrimp and splurge to do that.”
The list: http://www.fastcompany.com/3009210/most-creative-people-2013/24-sheryl-connelly