Opinion: Diversity in the Automotive Industry Is More Than Just a Concept

By Cindy Riley

When Sue Rokosz began her career in the automotive industry almost four decades ago, there weren’t many females to emulate. Fortunately, that’s no longer the case.

“I’m so heartened by the increase in numbers of women in the automotive industry, and the opportunities for advancement,” Rokosz said. “The changes made by the automotive companies and their suppliers, particularly those that allow for increased work-life balance, such as job sharing, flexible work schedules, and increased parental leave, are so important in making the automotive industry a welcoming place for women.”

Creating a path

As a senior environmental engineer working in the environmental quality office at Ford Motor Company, Rokosz is passionate about her work, but recognizes the need to expose more young girls to STEM studies so they can help shape the future of mobility.

 “There are a multitude of opportunities for very fulfilling careers,” explained the Detroit native. “From research to engineering to marketing, there is a place for all young women in the auto industry.” 

The non-profit Automotive Women’s Alliance Foundation offers training and coaching programs, and awards academic scholarships to promote diversity in the industry.

“It’s important for automotive women to be role models to those who are seeking to enter the industry,” Rokosz said. “To echo a widely used quote: ‘If you can see her, you can be her.’”

Providing equal opportunities

Rokosz says it’s crucial to hire and seek input from women and minorities to help make the auto industry more profitable. 

“Company employees really need to reflect their customer base,” she said. “Having diversity in a company’s ranks brings great insight into how best to serve the customer.

“Diversity is important, because you can get different points of view regarding a product or service. When you have people who all look alike, you don’t have that.”

As for industry trends relating to diversity and sexism, “There is an increasing demand for transparency and quantifiable metrics,” Rokosz said. “Words aren’t enough, without the actions to back them up.”

Looking to the future

Rokosz still believes more can be done to attract females to what she describes as a clean, technologically advanced industry.

“We’re lagging behind while others have made more progress,” she said. “I’d also like to see more women getting into leadership positions, such as CEO or COO, and serving on boards of directors at for-profit companies.” 

Rokosz adds, “The auto industry is really a good place for anyone to find a fulfilling career. We need all the great minds we can get. It’s an exciting time, and everyone can make an impact.”