Five: That’s how many lists of 100 Leading Women in the North American Auto Industry that Automotive News has published. Twenty: That’s the number of years this project has spanned.
Three hundred seventy-two: That’s how many executives those lists have celebrated.
In 2000, when we compiled the first list, Publisher Keith Crain wrote, “Let’s hope that the progress speeds up and that this will be the only time when we have to single out women for their accomplishments.”
Well, that didn’t work. (Hope is not a strategy.) Every five years I wish that we’re making the final Leading Women list. It’s my favorite project but I’d prefer that women in powerful positions in the auto industry was routine and I found something else to focus on.
But here we are in 2020 — the auto world is transforming at warp speed yet it’s still necessary to call attention to the achievements of automotive women.
We asked the Leading Women how to encourage women to enter the auto industry. Kimberley Gardiner, Mitsubishi Motors North America chief marketing officer, who is joining Volkswagen of America on Nov. 16, said: “I would say three things. Visibility, visibility, visibility. There just needs to be more of us and we need to be more visible.”
So that’s what Automotive News is doing with our Leading Women lists, conferences, galas and the Leading Women Network that is 6,000 people strong.
We’re making women with authority visible. Most of the Leading Women feel an obligation to mentor and sponsor the next generation of leaders, so that’s happening, too. I’ve seen it often. But clearly that’s not enough.
Janet Barnard, chief people officer for Cox Automotive, thinks she knows who can help women advance to top executive jobs. She looks to the men, “especially the white men in our industry — who still are the majority here — and really would just look you all in the eye and say, ‘You can help us fix this and we need you to help us fix it,’ ” she said, adding: “There are a lot of great men in this industry who I think will help.”
In the meantime, read about our fifth group of 100 Leading Women in the 76-page special section in this issue. They’re a diverse group from 72 automotive companies but they have much in common: confidence, courage and kick-ass careers. I bet many readers will relate to their struggles and their triumphs.
You’ll even find leadership tips and book recommendations. Mostly you’ll find vibrant, authentic role models who are getting some much-needed visibility.