Saturday 17 March 2018

Motor industry not the only one that needs more women to get things done

A collection of pictures from Women@SIMI (Society of the Irish Motoring Industry) conference.
A collection of pictures from Women@SIMI (Society of the Irish Motoring Industry) conference.
Eddie Cunningham

Eddie Cunningham

The talk was of an industry needing to open up more jobs and career paths. The talk was of greater empowerment, of opportunities, of career paths to women in motoring.

By the end of the annual 'gathering' of women involved in the Irish Motor Industry at WOMEN@SIMI, one got the feeling it wasn't the only area of Irish life that could do with more females.

It was a lovely event. Many at the conference said how good it was to meet up with people they talk to on the phone, or email, but rarely see. And, of course, new acquaintances were made.

Each year, the conference usually represents something of a challenge to an industry that is perceived as being male dominated.

But it was a man, SIMI president Alan Greene, who set the tone on the topic this year. "As employers, " he said, "we are missing out on unknown opportunities to hire women in the sector."

To address the imbalance, he called for "more initiatives to promote the variety of careers within the industry and a well-marked career path."

Gillian Fanning, 'chairman' (sic) of the SIMI wholesalers committee, told us how international research is showing how women bring a "different dimension" to companies. They have strengths such as the natural ability for long-term planning and getting things done (more on that in another context later).

Critically for the motor industry, she pointed out how women are behind 85pc of car-buying decisions.

It's little wonder, as she reported, that there should be a push on to have more females in the business and to acknowledge their skills and potential.

Back to the men and the business for a moment . . . Bank of Ireland Finance MD Pat Creed spoke of increasing car sales and the confidence flowing through the industry.

Certainly, there was a sense of real optimism throughout the event. And there was a real emotional part too.

Penny Ferguson, founder of 'The Living Leader' in the UK, told us about her three divorces, personal tragedy and how she lost a lot of money over her lifetime. That was all by way of background. At the age of 50 - more than 20 years ago - she began to realise the one common denominator in her life of trials and tribulations was - herself.

She changed because she began to do things for the right reasons - for her. She began to 'lead' herself by taking responsibility for what she did and wanted.

She spoke of how people don't really listen. How in attempting to solve other people's problems, they rob others of their own leadership. Be helpful, by all means, she advised. Be positive and praise the good things people do, but don't jump in and start telling them what to do.

There are, she told us, three key factors to being a real leader and in taking responsibility in work and in personal life.

The first is how you choose to think: positively or negatively. Seeing everything as an opportunity or putting up hurdles from the start.

The second is understanding responsibility at its most profound level.

And the third is Communication - why telling people what to do and 'helping' them can mean subliminally saying: "You can't do this without me."

Sometimes though we have to intervene, and Road Safety Authority chief executive Moyagh Murdoch spoke of trying to stop people killing themselves and others on our roads.

In a forthright interview with the master of Masters of Ceremonies, RTE's Mary Kenny, she told us of the devastation drink-driving is causing on our roads.

So much so, she raised the prospect of convicted drink drivers having to re-sit their driving test.

Part of the reason for such behavior is the absence of 'the fear factor' because the Traffic Corps has been decimated, she said. You could sense the frustration in her voice.

As you could on another topic, when Mary interviewed Government Chief Whip Regina Doherty. Regina told us she couldn't understand why it takes so long to get things done in the Dail.

She said institutions almost step in front of them and block them with even "urgent" matters still taking far too long to be processed.

I think she is determined to bring change, especially now we have a minority government that has to listen to, and work with, the Opposition. But you could feel her frustration.

It looks like the motor industry isn't the only one in need of more women to get things done.

Indo Motoring

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