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[NEWS] Industry digest: How women are changing the automotive industry

Industry digest: How women are changing the automotive industry

01 alison jones
Alison Jones is now the senior vice president for the circular economy at Stellantis

Our new Autocar Business columnist on why Stellantis boss Alison Jones is a trailblazer

Ask Alison Jones, the newly promoted senior vice president for the circular economy at Stellantis, what makes a great leader in the rapidly changing automotive world and she will tell you it is someone who is not afraid of the unknown.

“I think it’s a requirement of our industry that you’re comfortable with unpredictability,” she said in a recent interview for a skills research project my company is currently conducting. “You have to be entrepreneurial and inquisitive and be able to lead when you can’t follow a path that has worked previously. To find a path forward, to find the growth, the competitive advantage or the revenue opportunities, you have to be really comfortable with unpredictability and ambiguity.”

Such agile and creative thinking will be much needed in Jones’s new role in charge of Stellantis’s sustainability agenda – her first global leadership position after previously heading up the group’s UK operation.

It will require her to find her own pathway to deliver on the circular economy as part of the drive towards COP26 net zero targets across multiple brands and regions while ensuring a significant commercial return. Along the way, she will need to win over the hearts and minds of governments, unions, suppliers and dealers and bring them into line with her strategy – a hugely challenging task that will make her one of the most powerful and influential players in the global automotive industry.

Aside from her own achievement as a British woman who has ascended the ladder in a traditionally male-dominated world – and who is also the first female president of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) – Jones’s elevation underlines the changing face of automotive as more and more women step into leadership roles. As a long-standing judge of the Autocar Great Women in the British Car Industry awards, I have seen with my own eyes how the quality of nominees, many of them with 20-year careers in automotive, has risen incrementally.

Part of the reason is that, historically, women have only been able to gain recognition in the automotive sector through their results, rather than relying on their networks to move up through the ranks, so those at the top are there on merit. The ‘old boy network’ remains active but it is also clear that many organisations are now taking a much broader view in terms of finding the best talent for the job.

Covid has certainly accelerated this more enlightened approach. Job candidates have reassessed how they want to work in the future and organisations have had to accept that if they want the best people. A largely passive labour market coupled with skills shortages across automotive and other competing sectors means companies have to be more imaginative and flexible in how they fill their roles.

It has also meant that more women are moving into strategic and technical positions, not just the traditional female stamping grounds of HR and marketing. With Jones now established as a trail-blazing role model for ambitious and talented women, it is a trend that will surely continue.

Lynda Ennis is the founder of the global automotive and mobility executive search company, Ennis & Co

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