CEO Column

Jennifer Safavian | Celebrating Women’s History Month

Jennifer Safavian
March 31, 2023

Each March, we highlight the essential contributions of women to our society in honor of Women’s History Month. Autos Drive America’s members are committed to uplifting women in the automotive industry and go above and beyond—not only in March, but every day—to engage, support, and elevate the women who keep the international auto industry moving forward.

This year, Mitsubishi Motors North America started a dialogue with leading women at their facility to discuss what drives the success of women in the automotive industry. Throughout these discussions, a key theme stood out—the importance of supporting and empowering women in the industry. Kia also highlighted stories of women in automotive manufacturing, using the Kia Collective to feature women’s voices who have helped to shape the company and its presence in North America. Toyota marked the occasion by highlighting six exceptional women across their company, including employees from their Alabama and Kentucky facilities. Mazda’s Women in Leadership group hosted a panel discussion at its facility in Huntsville focused on the importance of mentorship and creating a strong network of support. And Volvo, who has committed to achieving a 30% female workforce by 2030, recently convened a group of automotive leaders at the Washington Post Global Women’s Summit to share how they are accelerating opportunities for women in the industry.

Other Autos Drive America members used Women’s History Month to amplify mentorship opportunities and career development tools that are essential for women hoping to advance their careers in the auto industry. For example, Honda Manufacturing in the USA hosts the Women Powering Honda (WPH) resource group. The group hosts a variety of events and initiatives across Honda’s USA manufacturing facilities, including panel discussions on being a woman in the manufacturing industry. Similarly, Nissan Motor Corporation’s Women’s Business Synergy Team supports team members’ professional goals, hosts networking events, and serves the local community. Toyota USA also hosts a women’s business synergy group, Women Influencing and Impacting Toyota (WIIT), which seeks to promote talent growth by cultivating a workplace environment that attracts, retains, and encourages women through engagement, education, recognition and networking.

Beyond creating a space for employee mentorship and growth, women’s business groups at many international automakers also partner with local community organizations to support girls and women in STEM. This year, Volkswagen Chattanooga’s resource groups, Women in Motion and African Americans Building Leadership Excellence, jointly hosted “Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day.” Subaru also has a partnership with Women of Color in Automotive Network (WOCAN) to sponsor women of color with career advancement and mobility in mind.

International automakers understand the need to prioritize STEM education for women and amplify opportunities for women to get involved in science and engineering. This year, Hyundai celebrated International Women’s Day for the third year in a row by opening applications for its Hyundai Women in STEM scholarship program. Since 2020, Hyundai has provided $150,000 to the next generation of women leaders, helping to close the gender gap in STEM fields relevant to automotive manufacturing, including engineering, mobility, and autonomous driving. Mercedes-Benz USA offers programming and lesson plans to get girls involved in and inspired by STEM. By providing downloadable discussion guides, Mercedes-Benz hopes to change the narrative and teach young girls that there are no limits and that they can do and be anything.

Furthermore, international automakers understand the importance of women in every single role that touches the automotive industry. Each year, BMW Manufacturing hosts a supplier diversity conference, an opportunity for women-owned businesses to participate in a day of professional development and to network with BMW’s Tier 1 Suppliers.

The automotive industry as we know it today wouldn’t exist without the contributions of women. From the invention of the brake pad in 1888 by Bertha Benz (yes—that Benz) to women taking over jobs on the assembly line traditionally held by men during World War II, women have long played a critical role in the automotive industry.  And today, our members are ensuring that women are involved in every level of the automobile production process, from the assembly line to the C-suite. At Autos Drive America, we’re excited to see where women take the industry next.