Fuelling Change: Clare Freemantle's Journey and Why the Industry Mindsets Need to Change for Women

  • Harwoods

According to a report by the Institute of the Motor Industry, 81% of the automotive industry is represented by men. This is not an indication of a skills gap, but an opportunity gap. Clare Freemantle, our Sales & Marketing director, joined us to talk about her experience and to talk about the gap we must fill to get more women into the industry.

Early Test Drive into The Automotive Industry

Clare came into the industry by chance at 18 years old. With an interest in cars, she secured a role as a Fleet Service Administrator at Volkswagen in Camberley. When we asked her what she loved the most about it, Clare said: “The thing I love most about the industry is that it's a great place to build a career if you’re willing to work hard.” She also added, “Irrelevant of background, there is a lot of opportunity for people to excel in the automotive industry.”

A Few Gendered Potholes Along the Way

Unfortunately, like many women, her climb to the top was not without its challenges. We asked Clare about her struggles and about what women must put up with. Clare said, “As a woman in the automotive industry, it can often mean choosing between putting up with behaviour you’re not comfortable with or speaking up and potentially risk being alienated by your peers".

She also said that “In general, the industry is very male orientated, which means that there are fewer female managers, and hence fewer females to promote, with less females to inspire you it can feel like you’re less likely to be promoted.”

“As a woman, you’re constantly having to deal with assumptions that you’re less senior than you are which can be really demotivating.”

A Great Career Choice That Needs Some Modifications

Despite this, Clare believes that the automotive industry is a great industry for women to work in, it has already improved greatly but the changes need to continue to get more women excited about the prospect of working in it. “I think the best way to get more women into the industry is by increasing awareness of current changes and exposing more people to the female leaders that exist to see that it is achievable. Also, it's vital to look at the current expectations and assumptions people have. It should be expected that women can have any role alongside men and people need to stop assuming that women can’t do a certain role just because of their gender."

She also talked about her mission to make sure women have it easier than she did: “I am very passionate about empowering women to pursue any role without giving any headspace to assumptions or stigmas that might hold them back. Shifting the mindset of women in the industry should be our focus, rather than solely focusing on the number of women currently working in the industry.”

Clare’s Tips for Women in The Automotive Industry and Those Looking to Get into It

Many women currently face discrimination, but Clare says, “Women should never feel the need to apologise for being a woman!”

“It's also vital that women don’t play down their femininity. Be confident, be congruent and lean into the power of what you personally bring to the role that you’re applying for. “

She also adds that “Women should lean into the strengths they have rather than focusing on their weaknesses. Focus on what you can bring and don’t try and change who you are to fit in with another gender.”

Hope For the Future Of Women In The Automotive Industry

We have a long way to go, but it's also worth looking at how far we’ve come so far. In 2021 Cornwall College conducted a study which showed that Female mechanics now account for around 10 per cent of the workforce in the UK which is a rise of 125 per cent since 2011. The automotive industry is beaming with opportunity, so whatever your background is, there are opportunities for you to shine, grow and excel in it.

Published by Amy Josling Digital Marketing & Content Executive
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