Women continue to be a minority in the automotive industry, making up only about 23.6% of its workforce as of 2019. Because the automotive industry produces a major form of transportation, it brings in significant revenue and is likely to be a long-lived sector of the economy.
As such, as women join this industry, they are likely to find highly stable employment opportunities. Additionally, diversity in various occupations is very important for our culture and our economy, as it allows different people with different perspectives and motivations to wield decision-making and economic power through more channels.
With those benefits in mind, let’s take a look at all the notable features of the automotive industry and how women can make their path through this expansive field.
An Overview of the Automotive Industry
The automotive industry is a sector that is concerned with the design, development, production, and distribution of motor vehicles. More than 2.8 million people are employed in the automotive sector, and as of 2018, the industry contributed $521.5 billion to the U.S. economy, which is about 2.5% of the GDP. The automotive industry is expected to continue to be a thriving sector, as car sales are projected to experience further growth over time.
Benefits of Working in the Automotive Industry
The benefits of working in the automotive industry can include the following:
- Strong job stability and outlook: The automotive industry is a vital part of the US economy and supports about 10.3 million American jobs. As such, it offers a wide range of career opportunities. Additionally, lots of jobs in the automotive industry typically pay well, such as auto manufacturing. The automotive industry employs millions of workers across the country, and is continually looking to fill positions as vehicles are, and will continue to be, a large part of American life.
- A variety of available career paths: In the automotive industry, you can work in body shops, be a painter, assist at an auto parts store, or work your way up from a factory worker to manager. From entry-level to specialized skills to the executive suite, the automotive industry will always need these people. As the industry continues to evolve with electric vehicles and more, additional career options will become available as well.
- Opportunities to participate in innovation: New automotive technologies are being developed all the time. Working in the automotive industry gives you a chance to be at the forefront of these changes and help shape the future of the industry. From new battery technologies to research into reducing emissions, the automotive industry offers working with cutting-edge technologies to provide new solutions to complex problems.
- Development of transferable skills: The automotive industry has jobs that involve construction, engineering, and technology — all popular industries. Additionally, many jobs in the auto industry leave no room for error, so attention to detail is a crucial skill that can be transferred to industries such as healthcare. Solving complex problems is also a vital skill that will be developed in the automotive industry — a skill that is valued anywhere.
- Easy entry into the workplace: As stated before, the auto industry is large and always growing, which means that there are always opportunities to find an entry-level job. Additionally, jobs typically pay well, making them attractive for those who are just starting. Basic mechanical knowledge is relatively easy to learn, which can get you into many entry-level positions.
- Highly consistent working hours: Vehicles break down, parts need to be serviced, and research is always going on in the automotive industry. In other words, there is always something to do when you work with vehicles. This leads to a consistent, stable working schedule.
- Fulfilling, hands-on work: Solving problems, helping people get back on the road, and contributing to a more sustainable mode of transportation are all things you should feel great about. You’ll get the chance to do these things, and more, in the automotive industry.
Additionally, while it depends on your specific role and employer, many jobs in this industry provide good pay and comprehensive benefits.
Challenges of Working in the Automotive Industry
The challenges that employees in the automotive industry may face depend on various factors such as their specific role and workplace, as well as individual differences. However, you may face the following challenges:
- Supply shortages: Occasional supply shortages are a reality for many businesses, especially during times of economic difficulties. The automotive industry, in particular, can become especially affected as different parts of vehicles are sourced on a global scale. Shortages of these materials can result in interruptions of business or redirecting supplies.
- Manufacturing shutdowns: Supply shortages and other difficulties can result in manufacturing shutdowns. These may be the choice of the company or mandated by the government, which can affect employee pay.
- Layoffs during economic slumps: Shortages and economic slumps can also result in layoffs in some cases as there is not enough work to merit the size of the workforce.
- Pressure to meet strict regulations: Many elements of the automotive industry are overseen federally by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
- Work with dangerous equipment: Automotive manufacturing companies utilize a lot of equipment to facilitate their processes. Much of this equipment can be heavy or dangerous, although there are many safety regulations in place to mitigate injuries.
- Discriminatory views about women: Women have little existing reputation in many parts of the automotive industry, and outdated views of their capability in such industries persist among some existing figures.
- Pressure to meet strict quotas: Many processes in the automotive industry are large-scale and complex and companies often have to meet deadlines for orders. As such, quotas for all operations must be met on time.
- Evolving policies and standards: Due to technological innovations and changes in regulatory guidelines, policies and standards often have to be updated in this industry.
Due to the wide variety of challenges, it is important to research different companies when considering joining this industry, as they will have different company cultures, goals, and standards — all of which may predict which challenges you may face.
Notable Women in the Automotive Industry
As mentioned, women represent a relatively small percentage of employees in the automotive industry. However, there are notable women in the industry, including:
- Aicha Evans: CEO of Zoox;
- Aruna Anand: Head of Continental Engineering Services (North America);
- Corina Diehl: CEO of Diehl Automotive Group;
- Flavia De Veny: CEO of Camaco-Amvian
- Jessica Berry: Vice President of Toyota and Hyundai-Kia;
- Kim Day: Coo of Steele Auto Group;
- Mary Barra: CEO of General Motors;
- Mary Buchzeiger: CEO of Lucerne International;
- Pamela Fletcher: Vice President of Global Innovation for General Motors;
- Tamara Darvish: President of U.S. operations for AutoCanada.
These are just a few of the modern women known for leading innovation in the automotive industry.
What Types of Companies Hire Automotive Technology Professionals?
Women can work their way through the automotive industry in a variety of ways. As a baseline, you should research what sector of the automotive industry you want to work in, in particular, what type of company you would like to work for. The following are a few types of companies that hire people with degrees related to automotive technology:
- Heavy equipment dealers;
- Federal, state, and local government agencies;
- Road/bridge construction companies;
- Transportation companies;
- Mining and manufacturing operations;
- Production of agricultural equipment;
- Original equipment manufacturers;
- Electronic car component manufacturers;
- Dealerships and rental agencies;
- CAD companies.
However, there are many more niches that a person with a degree related to automotive technology can pursue.
Promising Career Options for Women in the Automotive Industry
Once you decide what sector of the field you’re interested in, you can research the variety of positions that exist. The following career options can provide a high level of job satisfaction and security for women who are interested in joining the automotive industry:
- Auto designer: Auto designers design vehicles and their components. They may work with tools such as CAD software.
- Auto instructor: Auto instructors teach students about skills related to jobs in the automotive industry. While they may instruct about a variety of different jobs, often they teach skills related to installation and maintenance.
- Car detailer: Car detailers clean and restore vehicles. They may deal with either the interior or exterior of vehicles and use a variety of cleaning and restoration equipment.
- Car rental agent: A car rental agent facilitates the rental of vehicles. These individuals often have excellent people and financial skills.
- Diesel locomotive mechanic: A diesel locomotive mechanic installs and maintains the components of diesel-powered trains. These individuals will need to know how to utilize equipment such as lifts and drills, and will need to install and service components such as diesel engines.
- Diesel technician: Diesel technicians inspect and service vehicles that are powered by various diesel engines. These professionals need to be highly aware of relevant regulations and have a high degree of technical knowledge related to maintenance, such as the installation of a 4B long block to address engine failure.
- Farm equipment mechanic: Farm equipment mechanics service and install components related to farm machinery. As such, they have to have a high degree of knowledge about a variety of common components in these machines, such as long block diesel engines.
- Heavy equipment maintenance specialist: Heavy equipment maintenance specialists install and service a variety of components related to heavy machinery. They have knowledge related to components such as transmissions, hydraulic systems, electrical systems, and six-cylinder diesel engines.
- Marine diesel mechanic: A marine diesel mechanic installs, maintains, and repairs components of diesel-powered marine vessels. They are often responsible for engine maintenance in particular.
- Quality testing engineer: Quality testing engineers test and report on the quality of various automotive components and products. These professionals often work with testing software such as modeling and simulation software.
- Vehicle inspector: A vehicle inspector inspects vehicles for safety and compliance with regulations. These individuals need to have a high level of knowledge related to regulations and automotive components.
Automotive Industry Degrees and Training Opportunities
The following degree programs and training options that can prepare individuals who are interested in joining the automotive industry:
- Associate degree in automotive technology;
- Bachelor’s degree in automotive technology;
- Automotive trade school programs;
- Various internships and apprenticeship programs.
When choosing an education or training program, it is important to consider your career goals within the automotive industry. Additionally, you should consider how long you want to spend in your program and what kind of financial resources you have at your disposal. For example, trade school programs are typically cheaper and faster to complete.
On the other hand, however, traditional university programs may offer you a more holistic education, as you will have to complete general education requirements as well. Meanwhile, people with bachelor’s degrees will typically make more money in their careers than those with associate degrees. However, this largely depends on the specific company you work for, previous experiences in your tool belt, and various unique elements of your career path.
Financial Aid and Scholarship Resources
To gain the proper education and training, you’ll need funding to do so. The following financial aid and scholarship resources can help women who are pursuing education and training in the field of automotive technology:
- Women in Auto Care: This organization offers a variety of tools and resources to support women in the automotive industry, including various scholarship offerings.
- Automotive Women’s Alliance Foundation: This organization offers a variety of tools and resources to support women in the automotive industry, including various scholarship offerings.
- GM Women’s Retail Network Drive to Succeed Scholarship: This scholarship of up to $5,000 goes to women who work in GM motor dealerships and wish to pursue higher education related to automotive technology.
- Southern Automotive Women's Forum Scholarship: This scholarship of up to $5,000 goes to women pursuing higher education in various STEM fields.
- Kris Paper Legacy Scholarship for Women in Technology: This scholarship offers a minimum of $1,500 to women pursuing a degree in a technology field.
Additional Automotive Career Resources
The following are further resources for people who are interested in starting or furthering a career in the automotive industry:
- Automotive News Jobs Board: This resource provides a variety of job postings to people looking for a job in the automotive industry.
- Auto Care’s Career Hub: This resource offers a variety of tools and information related to career development in the automotive industry.
- Various school-based career centers and services: Many universities and trade programs feature dedicated career centers to help you determine your career path and take appropriate steps to reach it.