Basak Ozer remembers her school days when she was one of three women in an electrical engineering class of 180 people.
Astrid Fontaine says she was one of four women in a class of 152 manufacturing engineering graduates.
This imbalance was once the norm. People accepted it, Fontaine said, adding that the conventional attitude of the day was, “Few young women are interested in engineering, so what?” “
“Today there is a lot more awareness. “
Fontaine and Ozer participate in a panel discussion titled “Women in Automotive Technology” at an online industry conference organized by the Reuters Press Agency.
More women are joining the ranks of automotive tech, but there is still a way to go before gender parity – or something close to it – is achieved, the panelists say. “It’s still not uncommon for me to be the only woman in meetings,” says Amanda Skura, head of digital technology at Audi.
Ozer (photo below, left) says she is “happy to say” that a third of her team are women. She is vice president of user experience and industrial design at Motional, a startup that builds axis robots.
“Schoolgirls studying math and science will be looking for tech jobs a decade later,” she says. “I try to be a role model.”
Fontaine is the first member of the board of directors of carmaker Bentley for people, digitization and IT, a position created in 2018. During her career, she has worked in different countries.
“When I saw real female leadership, it was when I left Europe for the United States,” she says. “The United States was ahead then. but now Europe is the same in terms of promoting diversity.
Employee diversity creates more innovation, she says, noting that women influence the majority of car purchases, whether as individual consumers or as family members. “There is a lot of evidence that companies make diversity their top priority. “
“Mentors play an important role” for women entering the business, says Indu Vijayan, director of product management at AEye, a company that creates lidar technology for advanced driver assistance systems and autonomous vehicles.
She holds a degree in computer engineering and is the founder of Women in Autonomy. She started at AEye as a software engineer.
The conference panelists recall supportive supervisors of both sexes early in their careers.
“I had male bosses who helped me as mentors,” says Bentley’s Fontaine (photo below, left). “A turning point for me was a female executive at Mercedes-Benz. She was inspiring and brought a different perspective. She was the only woman in the executive suite.
Today, Fontaine supervises three female colleagues. “It’s about being there, listening, and giving directions,” she says. “Before, mentoring was less formal. Now it’s structured.
Audi’s Skura says, “Even old, same old isn’t going to cut it. If we don’t bring new voices, we are not going to survive these disruptions. And we need people to be genuine themselves. “
Steve Finlay is a retired editor of WardsAuto. He can be contacted at [email protected].