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Michigan Tech University Encouraging Girls To Enter The Automotive Industry With New Program
According to 2016 statistics, although women make up half the workforce in the United States, they represent only a quarter of the automotive field. When you break it down even further, putting aside management roles and senior level positions, the numbers are even more abysmal. Women only make up 7.3% of automotive repair and maintenance employees.

In 2014 Mary Barra was appointed CEO of General Motors, becoming the first female CEO of a major auto maker. But how does that high-level representation have an effect on the engineering and manufacturing positions? Catalyst says the industry is having difficult attracting women into entry-level positions, which is where the pipeline problem occurs.

In a survey of women in various industries, respondents stated the automotive industry was the least successful at attracting and retaining women, it said.

In other countries, the percentage of women in automotive engineering and repair is slightly higher, but nowhere near equal. In Canada, across the European Union, and in the UK, the number averages just below 20%. So the question is; what is the secret to encouraging more female participation in this industry?

It has to come from a place of interest, of course, but if girls are never given the option to learn about automotive engineering and repair from the ground level they may be missing out on an exciting career prospect. While there are a number of universities and schools around the US which offer automotive engineering programs open to both boys and girls, Michigan Technological University is going one step further.

Earlier this summer they launched the inaugural Women in Automotive Engineering program, a week long initiative that invited girls to get firsthand experience in the industry from female role models who are working in the field. The program was sponsored by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and was part of the Universitys Summer Youth Program. The leadership team was headed up by Jennifer Shute and Jody Hand who are former MTU students who wanted to provide role models for the current students, something the two women did not have while they were attending college.

As Mark Wilcox from the MTU news website points out, their most important role was to show the high-school women that a career in the male-dominated automotive industry is indeed possible.

Part of the reason we are doing this is the fact we did not have (female) role models, not only at their age, but also in college. We think it is important they know they have options, said Jody Hand.

One of the reasons they believe they need to increase the pipeline of girls and women getting in the automotive industry from the ground level is the impact women have financially at the consumer level. Michigan Tech alumnus, Stephen L. Williams 1986, who was also FCAs liaison to Michigan Tech, says women purchase 60% of all vehicles and influence nearly 85% of all car buying decisions in the US. However, the enrollment of women in engineering programs remains at a low 18%.

We are making a direct investment that will hopefully encourage promising young women to consider engineering as a field of study and a career in the automotive industry, he said of the Women in Automotive Engineering MTU program.

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