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Project XX: Survey Shows Sexism Running Rampant in the Auto Industry

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As part of a look into gender representation in the automotive industry, Automotive News studied more than 900 women’s responses from a survey called Project XX.

While women are making their way to the top of prominent automotive companies like General Motors, everyday women’s experiences aren’t showing the same level of progression. In this survey, women reported feeling excluded from much of the automotive industry, and even having to prove their expertise simply because of their gender.

Automotive News partnered with Stanford University and Elephants in the Valley (a small group of Silicon Valley executives) for Project XX, analyzing the responses of these 900+ women.

Sexism is a prominent force in the automotive and technology industries. However, it often flies under the radar of men simply because women are afraid to come forward. According to Project XX, only 18% of women reported their concerns to Human Resources. The rest kept quiet, fearing they would be branded as a troublesome employee. Many participants said they would prefer to find a new job rather than risk their reputation by voicing concerns about sexism in their positions.


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Sexist language also runs rampant in the automotive industry, with it being commonplace to refer to cars as “she.”  This makes women feel as though they are less than men, especially when it comes to the car industry. In fact, 65% of women surveyed were asked to complete lower-level tasks in the workplace than their colleagues.

“Regardless of my position in the company, which is now sales manager, I am asked to do menial tasks such as buying gifts, coordinating food for meetings, making dinner reservations,” said one Project XX participant. “When I push back, I’m accused of pulling the women’s lib card.”

Women in the automotive industry are also being questioned about their knowledge because cars are seen as a “guy thing.” 58% of women surveyed reported feeling as though their credibility was questioned simply because to their gender. We’ve seen this in the automotive journalism industry as well. One survey participant even said her co-worker told her she should work for L’Oreal instead of the automotive industry because, of course, that’s more of a women’s company.

The gender pay gap—the idea that women are making less than men for the same work—is a huge issue across the nation, and Project XX emphasizes the impact it is having on the automotive industry. The pay gap is even wider for women of color than white women, race having an impact on their compensation.

“The wider industry still has a ways to go when it comes to listening to us when we speak up about the difficulties we still face in the working world,” said one participant.


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Dealerships are experiencing this problem in the form of employee turnover. According to the National Automobile Dealers Association’s 2017 Dealership Workforce Study, female dealership sales employees had a 96% turnover rate in 2016. We’ve seen this extend beyond employees and into dealership customers too—many women still aren’t taken seriously when buying a car.

“Automotive is, by far, the most sexist industry I have worked in,” one participant commented. “The issues facing women working in automotive are far more severe and the sexism far deeper than in other industries. It’s a complete shame and an embarrassment.”

Addressing and acknowledging the problem is the first step to solving it. As I said before, many men in the automotive industry don’t realize it’s happening because women are afraid to speak up for fear of retaliation that could harm their careers. Project XX sheds light on an incessant problem that is not just in the automotive industry, but across the country. Automotive News says it best: “Sexism is alive and well in the automotive industry.”


News Source: Automotive News (subscription required)

  • Meg ThomsonEditor

    Meg Thomson is a writer, photographer, blogger, and activist. When she isn’t writing, Meg can be found immersing herself in television scripts, adopting and playing with animals, or updating lists of her dream travel destinations (the list never ends). Meg believes writing is power, and equality is essential. She is determined to make a difference in the world, one word at a time. See more articles by Meg.