During the second presidential debate between President Obama and Mitt Romney in 2012, a town-hall affair at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y., the “undecided voter” Katherine Fenton asked: “In what new ways do you intend to rectify the inequalities in the workplace, specifically regarding females making only 72 percent of what their male counterparts earn?” This question highlighted a pressing issue women in the United States and greater North America have had to battle since joining the workforce.

Romney shared about the effort his administration made to hire more women for his cabinet. To accomplish this task his team put together “binders full of women” who were qualified to do the same job as men. Politics aside, the notion that “binders full of women” exist signifies the occupational gender segregation many women face in modern day society.

In an August 2010 study Separate and Not Equal? Gender Segregation in the Labor Market and the Gender Wage Gap by Ariane Hegewisch, Hannah Liepmann, Jeff Hayes, Ph.D., and Heidi Hartmann, Ph.D., noted that after a considerable move towards more integrated occupations in the 1970s and 1980s in the United States, progress has completely stalled since the mid 1990s. The analysis confirmed that as more female workers joined an occupation the lower average earnings tended to be, especially for highly skilled positions that required higher education. Meanwhile, jobs that required little formal education and experience increased the “likelihood of very low earnings for women working in female-dominated, low-skilled occupations such as childcare.”

Canadian women are also faced occupational gender segregation and wage discrepancies. As stated in The Canadian Encyclopedia, “women earned 52.8% of what men earned in 1911, 58% in 1971 and 66% in 1996.” Very little has changed since 1996; in fact, women are now faced with greater challenges as more housework and caretaking responsibilities (a topic I hope to devote more time to in the future) are falling back on their shoulders due labor force hurdles and cutbacks on government services. As a whole, North American women are faced with some seriously big hurdles — many of which they’ve overcome time and again — that require our society as whole to address them.

Women & Automotive Conference | April 6 | Westin Harbour Castle

When faced with causes as large as occupational gender segregation and wage equality, it’s often best to focus on making progress within one sector and assisting its ripples vibrate from industry to industry. The Women & Automotive conference comes at a time when the male-dominated automotive industry is faced with a tremendous force of disruption that is forever changing the way the business is conducted within this industry. In addition to changing customer purchasing behaviors and demands, the automotive workforce is realizing that a large sector of our society lacks representation. Take for example the infographic below:

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As illustrated by the data, there are several areas within the North American automotive industry where women are underrepresented in the workforce and that’s due to a number of factors. We plan to address many of these factors come April, including:

  • Recruiting and retaining
  • Workplace flexibility
  • Mentorship

In preparation for the event, our team reading up on how our industry and others are addressing workforce diversification, occupational gender segregation, equal pay for equal work and more. Here are three articles to get you started:

I hope I’ll have the opportunity to discuss these factors with you in person during the inaugural Women & Automotive conference which will take place on Wednesday, April 6 at the Westin Harbour Castle in Toronto. In the meantime, please share other articles and studies that are relevant to this topic by commenting on this article or you by tweeting me directly @MagicMor.