How history is being made by a group of women journalists.
by Sandy Myhre
When Women’s World Car of the Year awards first started around nine years ago there were distinct reactions.
From nearly all women there was a sigh, an ‘at last’ exclamation, an ‘about time’ summary and generally universal appreciation. When the XF Jaguar won the first award there was absolute support. Jaguar sent along senior women executives to the first presentation in Knightsbridge, in London. So did Volvo and Ford even as one of their cars didn’t win the supreme award that year, in 2010.
From the majority of men there was considerable support. Managing Editor of Britain’s Autocar magazine, Allan Muir, came along willingly as did husbands, brothers, uncles, who acknowledged the right, and the choice, made. But, not every man was enthralled. Curiously, or perhaps not, the naysayers were invariably older, white, middle-class. males.
“What we need is a man’s award,” grumbled one on Facebook. It was pointed out there had been a man’s car award (or at least car awards voted exclusively by male motoring writers) for something like 130 years. He didn’t reply.
When a Mercedes won one year, one of the judges on the jury was told by her local dealer that Mercedes did not want their cars to be known as ‘women’s cars’. The fact that the jury of Women’s World Car of the Year are all professional and experienced motoring journalists, and many have considerable racing experience too, seemed to have escaped notice, without even mentioning the number of women who drive Mercs as customers.
The women on the jury don’t consider they vote for a ‘woman’s car’. Rather, they are women voting for their car of choice in a particular year. The consensus among the group was, there was no alternative but to plod on with being a voice for women in motoring and try to ignore the superficiality of negative remarks.
The judging panel in that first year, numbered just eight journalists. Six of those eight are still on the jury which has now grown to 34 women motoring journalists from 27 different countries. By December 2018 that will increase to 36 journalists from 28 countries and more will be added throughout 2019.
The importance of representing women in motoring has not been under-estimated by Volvo, Ford, Jaguar Land Rover and Hyundai, all companies that have arranged specific press conferences to receive the supreme award when one of their cars won in a particular year. Each time that happened, the company and the women of the jury made history.
It was the first time on each occasion that so many women motoring journalists had been in the same room at the same time since the car was invented over a century ago. If that sounds like an astonishing fact, it is.
(Above) Eleven women motoring writers make history in Coventry, UK. 2017.
Even in 2018, it is still rare to see a woman driving a car in a television commercial. Numerous discussions on the subject with women motoring writers and women motorists as customers have failed to reveal why. One wondered whether advertising agencies must accept responsibility in that they are briefed by (mostly) men from motor companies.
However, one senior advertising executive believes that’s not likely since the majority of agencies provide clients with a statistical analysis of customers and the likely target demographic. In the case of the motor industry the facts are clear: Nearly half of all cars in the world are bought by women and women influence around 80 percent of all cars purchased. It’s still curious, then, that women still don’t feature strongly as drivers in car television commercials.
It could be argued that this nervousness around openly promoting women-and-cars stems from the dealership and the car yard. In another quantifiable statistic, the majority of sales people are still, by far, men. Perhaps that accounts for the fact that radio, print and internet car advertisements also rarely feature women.
Are there glimmers of hope for change? Certainly car companies like Volvo, Ford, Jaguar Land Rover and Hyundai are actively encouraging women as employees, as customers, as participants. Maybe women consumers are holding themselves back with a reluctance to examine what they want in a car, and why. Yet, there’s no shortage of information available on the internet so there seems little reason not to sally forth to a dealership with confidence. Or buy online.
Women’s World Car of the Year is still the only car awards in the world voted by women and their collective influence is growing via conventional and digital media. It may still be a matter of slowly dripping water into the car industry bucket until it’s full, and splashing women customers in the process. And men.
Put another way, nine years of the existence of Women’s World Car of the Year is just under 12 percent of time that has elapsed since the motor car was invented. In those terms, there’s still a wee bit to go.
2018 Women’s World Car of the Year winners:
Supreme Award – Volvo XC40
Holly Reich Dream Car Award – Aston Martin Vantage
Woman of Worth Award (WOW) Fiona Pargeter, Jaguar Land Rover
The author of this article acknowledges a vested interest – she is a member of the jury of Women’s World Car of the Year.