Select Car Leasing examined 8 ways that the automotive industry still discriminates against women, and how it could change.
1) Crash Test Dummies Favour Men
Business Insider reported that American car companies only use one type of female test-dummy. She’s 5 feet tall and 7.8 stone. The average American woman is 12.2 stone in weight and nearly four inches taller that the test dummy. Female victims of car crashes are more likely than male victims to be killed or seriously injured. This is regardless of any other factors, such as age, car model, and use of seatbelts. Amazingly, male test dummies were not allowed to be tested in vehicles until 2003.
In 2012, Dr David Lawrence, the Director of San Diego State University’s Centre for Injury Prevention Policy & Practice, stated to ABC News that “Manufacturers used to all be male. They didn’t realize they needed to design for people different from themselves. We got over that,” Jason Forman, a UVA principal scientist and study author, said.
The situation in the EU is not much worse. The National Federation of Women’s Institutes states that the current EU crash test requirements require five tests to be passed before a car can be put on the market. None of these tests require the use of an anthropometrically accurate female dummy. Four of the five test requirements call for the use of a 50th-percentile male dummy. One regulatory test requires that a female dummy of 5th percentile be used. This is to ensure the entire female population is represented. The dummy is used to test the driver’s seat, but no data is available about how it would affect a female driver.
2) Crashes: Women are 73% more likely to sustain injuries to their faces than women
A University of Virginia Centre for Applied Biomechanics study in 2011 found that women involved in car accidents were 47% more likely than their male counterparts to suffer serious injuries or death. The same holds true for moderate injuries. This is a 71% increase in the likelihood of mild injuries compared to the men. This landmark research was the first to quantify this dangerous motoring gender gap in car safety.
The picture is still grim for 2020. The University of Virginia’s 2019 research paper has shown that the chances of a woman suffering serious injury or death are 73%. This is 26% more than it was in 2011. This latest study analyzed 31,000 drivers between 1998 and 2015. The latest study analyzed 31,000 motorists between 1998 and 2015. It found that there has been little progress in reducing the gender gap in car accident deaths.
These data are supported by research from National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. They also broke down the higher risk for females in car crashes by body part. Females are 8 % more likely to be injured in car crashes than their male counterparts, including leg injuries.
3) Seat Belts Don’t Fit Pregnant Women
Many automotive manufacturers and authorities recommend that women use standard seat belts when they are pregnant. However, research has shown that some mothers are reluctant to use them due to the risk of injury to their baby in the event of a crash.
Clippasafe’s recent survey of 500 mothers found that 19% of them would choose not to wear a belt during pregnancy due to discomfort. Four in five moms said they felt uncomfortable wearing a belt but continued to do so. This is due to the fact that most women don’t find seatbelts suitable for their third trimester.
Caroline Criado Perez, author of Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias In a World Designed for Men’s, explains that even though a pregnant crash-test dummy has been created in 1996, testing it with the US and EU governments is not mandated. Even though car accidents are the leading cause of fetal deaths in cases of maternal trauma-related fetal deaths, there has not yet been a seatbelt designed for pregnant women. Research from 2004 shows that pregnant women should wear the standard seatbelt. However, 62% of third-trimester pregnancies don’t like that design.”
According to SafeRide4Kids, there is only one pregnancy seat belt positioning product currently on the US market.
4) Voice Recognition doesn’t recognize women’s voices
For ten years, automakers have acknowledged that voice recognition technology does not work for women as well as for men. In 2011, it was suggested that women could simply receive training to learn how to use speech recognition technology to adapt their voices. Tom Schalk (VP of Voice Technology at ATX Group) stated that “many problems with women’s voices can be fixed if female driver were willing to undergo lengthy training… Women could learn to speak louder and direct their voices towards microphones.” This solution is extremely insulting and seems to take a lot of effort.
Google’s voice recognition technology is another example of this bias in wider society. Google claims that 20% of all searches are done by voice queries. They expect this number to rise to 50% by 2020. As we progress into the next decade, accurate tech will be more important than ever. Rachael Tatman (a University of Washington research fellow in Linguistics), found that Google’s speech recognition software was 70% more accurate in recognising male speech in 2016. As speech recognition is increasingly used in cars, it will be a major platform for the future. This could put women at an advantage.
This problem is not only for women, but it also affects people of both sexes with strong regional accents or foreign accents.
5) Women make up only 1% of racing drivers
Stirling Moss, an International Motorsport Hall Of Fame Inductee, stated to BBC in 2013 that while she believed female F1 drivers had the strength, she didn’t know if their mental abilities were strong enough to race hard wheel-to-wheel. It’s tiring when you race. It would be very difficult for a lady with mental stress to manage in a practical way. They don’t have the ability to win Formula 1 races, I think.
These comments were met with discontent throughout the industry and elsewhere. Susie Wolff (then hopeful F1 driver) responded that she didn’t know where he should start after listening to the interview. Although I have a lot respect for Sir Stirling’s achievements, I believe we are in a different generation. Moss thinks it is unbelievable that a woman would drive a Formula 1 vehicle. This is quite fair. When they raced, each time they got into a car they put their lives on the line. F1 is now safer and more technologically advanced than ever before.
Even though the interview was 7 years ago, the situation is still the same for women involved in motorsport. There are currently only three female drivers in five of the most prestigious racing series in the globe.
There are 320 drivers across the 5 disciplines. However, only three female participants belong to the same Kessel Racing team. This means that around 1% of the drivers in these 5 disciplines are female.
6) Lack Of Women At Boardroom Level
In motoring, the lack of representation of women in boardrooms is a problem that affects all business sectors. Select Car Leasing examined the CEOs of 20 well-known automobile companies around the globe and found that only three of them were women. Mary Barra, the CEO of General Motors, is responsible for both Chevrolet and Buick. This means that only two women hold the “top job” in these 20 companies. This research can be found here.
Recent research by Just Tyres has shown that women are disproportionately underrepresented in the boardroom. This is not just for CEOs.
This is a positive sign. General Motors was the first company to have a female CEO/CFO in its history, in 2018, Mary Barra and Dhivya Suriyaadevara. These appointments have not lowered the “glass ceiling”, and there’s still much work to do until women are equal in automotive boardrooms.
7) Automotive Manufacturing Underrepresentation
Deloitte research has shown that women face significant obstacles to gaining entry to the automotive industry. Is there an underlying reason for the male-dominated industry’s creation? One of the most important is that 66% of women find the automotive industry unattractive. Many also avoid the job due to the lack of work/life balance.
This has led to a significant underrepresentation in both the manufacturing and boardroom sides of the motoring industry. According to Catalyst research, only 1 in 4 EU workers are involved in the manufacture of motor vehicles. If you break down each country by country, 14% of workers in the UK manufacturing of motor vehicles are women. In the Netherlands, it is only 12%.
The situation in the US is similar. Women held 24% in the manufacturing of motor vehicles in 2019, according to statistics. To attract more women into the automotive manufacturing sector, the industry needs to improve.
8) Car Dealerships Are Hostile Towards Women
For women, the inequal treatment they receive at car dealerships and showrooms can make it difficult to navigate. Good Housekeeping, a magazine for women, conducted a survey with 2,600 women who were looking for a vehicle. This revealed the problems that women face when searching for a car. 66% of women think that car showrooms should be more gender-friendly because they tend to focus on men, much like television ads for cars. This is despite 53% of car buyers being made with input from their partners, and 43% are made by women alone.
According to the Good Housekeeping survey, 70% of car salespeople address their male counterparts rather than themselves. This is despite the fact that only 5% of cases in which the decision to buy a car comes down to the man. Nearly half (49%) of women who are looking to buy a car from a dealership feel patronized by the sales staff. A third of those who visit car showrooms feel uneasy and vulnerable.
Women don’t want to go to car dealerships alone or with their partners. In 2016, 48,000 UK women were asked about their experiences and nearly 90% said they would not go to car dealerships alone because of how they were treated.
Women in motoring: What does the future hold for women and what is realistic about change?
There are positive signs that the auto industry is moving in a positive direction. However, there is still much to be done to correct the gender imbalance.
The sector is still struggling with its “mans-world” image. This idea has been around since the explosion of the motor car in 1960s and 50s. There’s little to be done. First, the industry must place a greater emphasis on gender equality from the top manufacturers and industry bodies. Car companies must implement processes to ensure women have a clear path to power. Recent signals from General Motors, the largest automobile manufacturer in the world, show that change is possible. This American giant is leading the charge on gender equality. Women hold two of the most important positions at the company. But for real change to occur, other manufacturers will need to follow their lead and create a better future. 2020 could be the year when the industry is swept by the winds of change.