“When I went to university, we were 3 girls out of 120 students learning mechanical engineering, ” says Doctor Astrid Fontaine.
“Who do you have in a company gowns engineering driven? It’s people who have examined science, technology, maths, engineering — and these were subjects in the past that will mainly boys tended to study. inch
Dr Fontaine is really a board member at Bentley, the particular Volkswagen-owned British luxury carmaker. She actually is trying to explain to me why mature female executives like her continue to be a relative rarity in the car market, even though women make up an increasingly huge proportion of the market – and in the UK alone own some 35% of the cars on the road.
She is also aiming why she thinks the turmoil in the industry sparked by the Covid-19 outbreak may prove to be a catalyst for that creation of a more diverse workforce.
During her 25-year profession, Dr Fontaine has spent period at Daimler and Porsche, in addition to in academia in China as well as the United States. The executive appointments company Inclusive Boards ranks her among the 100 most influential women within the engineering sector.
Now at Bentley, since board member in charge of “People, Digitalisation and IT”, she finds himself overseeing attempts to build a more comprehensive workforce. Last year, there were signs of improvement: the company took on 93 students, of whom 31 were women – a record for the business. Yet that was before the pandemic took hold.
Like other carmakers, Bentley was badly affected by the lockdown, which forced it to close its factory in Crewe to get seven weeks, and send employees home. It later brought ahead plans to lay off one, 000 employees, or roughly 1 / 4 of its workforce.
However Dr Fontaine insists that the slashes – involving large numbers of voluntary redundancies – will not actually hamper long lasting efforts to improve diversity. Indeed, the lady thinks the changes in functioning patterns forced on companies with the crisis could reap significant advantages.
“I think exactly what we’re seeing here is a change within generations. I think it’s rather a possibility now to look forward, ” the lady says.
“This chance to work remotely, collaborating on electronic platforms – it removes any type of barriers regarding where you are located; this removes the barriers created whenever, for example , you have to look after children or even your family.
“You can be working from home, while doing that will as well – so your multi-tasking possibilities and flexibility increase tenfold. And i believe that’s why the environment will be so much more varied!
“The talent that ladies bring… in the past maybe they were not really willing to bring it forward because they got too many other things to care for. inch
All this comes during a period when, according to Dr Fontaine, the as a whole is already changing in ways which will appeal to a broader workforce.
“In the past it was powered very much by mechanical engineering plus design, ” she explains.
“But now the industry is certainly fully into the topic of electrification and digitalisation.
“So, you need system developers, skills within social media… and in this world of recent skills we are looking for, we find a far broader pool of female applicants. ”
Provided the challenges faced by additional senior women in male-dominated sectors, it’s perhaps surprising that when mentioned her own career, Dr Fontaine offers few complaints about obstacles being place in her way.
“Maybe I was simply lucky, ” the girl says.
“I found the opposite – there were people who were helping me, that were coaching, that were giving advice, that were offering honest feedback. I found people were encouraging. ”
But the girl agrees that there is a mindset inside the industry that needs to change.
“We need to create awareness regarding unconscious bias – where individuals have, probably unknowingly, a tendency in order to group together amongst people that are very similar, ” she says.
“However, I think we’ve all observed during this crisis that the benefit originates from grouping together with people that are different a person, to bring different opinions to the desk and listen to them.
“So that’s one of the major guidelines we are trying to encourage – developing a diversity of people, instead of everyone getting just the same. ”