We Must Inspire the Next Generation of Female Leaders in the Automotive Industry

By Jacqueline Hearns
  • Apr 28, 2023

There is a glaring disconnect between car buyers and the automotive industry’s workforce. Women influence 85% of car buying choices and are 62% of car buyers. Furthermore, 1.4 million more women have driver’s licenses in the U.S. than men.


However, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in 2021, only 22.4% of “transportation, storage and distribution” management roles were held by women, with the auto sector in particular only employing slightly more women, at 27.1%.  


It’s been proven that companies perform better with a diverse team and decision-makers. By 2028, women will own 75%of the discretionary spending. This means that if the industry would like to broaden its consumer base and speak to the masses, we need more diversity at all levels. 


As Director of Market Operations at Carvana, I am honored to be among a smart and influential team of senior female leaders. Carvana is helping break down barriers and pave the way for women in the automotive industry. And while tides are changing, there’s still so much more to be done. 


Carvana’s EmpowHER program supports women’s advocacy all year through specific educational and connection resources. As meaningful community extensions, CarMAMA is focused on supporting expectant and new mothers, and Women in Tech (WIT) fosters fulfilling career opportunities for those eager to excel in tech roles. The company explored a pilot program called Lane Change in 2022, a rotational program for employees to explore other areas of the business and discover new avenues and potential career moves across departments.


Additionally, senior female mentorship is a critical reinforcement to all of this. I am fortunate to have an incredible mentor at Carvana, Teresa Aragon. I had the pleasure of working for Teresa during my time in Customer Experience in 2020. I witnessed first-hand how Teresa led people through extremely difficult times, how she rallied her team behind tough decisions, gave feedback and held fellow leaders accountable, and truly what caring for one’s team really looks like. I think about her influence on me and how I can continue to pass that on to my team.


It is imperative that other automotive employers follow suit and foster positive work environments and clear career paths for women. 


Change from the Outside In


I firmly believe industry change starts from the ground up, beginning in the educational system. We need to break down stereotypes and stigmas in the automotive industry that result in fewer women showing an interest or working in such a hands-on work environment. This starts as early as grade school and continues through high school and secondary education. 


Regarding hiring and human resources departments, companies must tip the scale and work toward numbers to change the demographics. We need leading automotive companies to be more accountable in leading the charge, by targeting and recruiting more women for leadership roles.


The bottom line is that automotive companies should be proactive in recruiting and hiring women and have programs in place to support their career growth after being hired. Carvana’s programs should be just the tip of the iceberg—companies should invest in or create resources dedicated to fostering women in their personal growth and career success. Leadership skills are irreplaceable, and having tools in place for great mentors, like Teresa, ensures they have the support they need to encourage the next generation.