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80% of car-buying decisions are taken by women: Andrea Jung on the need for women in the auto industry

MUMBAI:
The growing number of women in revenue-generating roles and reporting directly to CEOs is a strong indicator that more and more women will find their way into the corner room at large global companies soon, according to Andrea Jung, president and chief executive office of Grameen America and a member on the board of Apple.

In a telephonic interview from New York, she pointed to Apple as an example, where several women report directly to CEO Tim Cook. Such roles “will lead them to the CEO job”, Jung said.

In her earlier assignment, when Jung became the chief executive of Avon, she was one among the only three female CEOs at Fortune 500 companies. That number has since grown to 6%. “The next 10 years, hopefully, will be better than the last 10 years,” she said.

Jung is one of the inaugural speakers at the ET Women’s Forum that will kick off this Friday. The daylong event is intended and designed to collaboratively create an urgent, sustainable and national culture of empowering India’s half a billion women.

Over 50 Indian and international speakers and panellists and well over 350 participants will gather at the ET Women’s Forum to amplify the voice of India’s women. Other speakers at the event will include Cherie Blair, Annette Dixon, Yashodhara Raje Scindia, Kristina Jullum Hagen, Fawzia Koofi, M Damodaran, Rajan Anandan, Vani Kola, Meena Ganesh, Shobana Kamineni and Elisabeth Coffey.

Edited excerpts from the interview with Jung:

On her bold decisions at Avon: One of the things at Avon — for over 125 years — was always about woman entrepreneurship. Sometimes people would ask us, ‘Do you sell skin cream?’ And we’d say, ‘We sell economic opportunity.’ As per a recent McKinsey study, if women were equally represented in the global workforce, it would be $28 trillion of additional GDP. When we decided to spread out, women were severely under-represented in developing and emerging world.

When I became the CEO of Avon, Brazil, Russia, India and China were just emerging, and still had a lot of poverty.

There were very few opportunities for women to equally participate in the workforce. Being a company that played a small role in creating job opportunities for women, we made that our case in developing markets, too.

But in those days, Avon was largely focused in the US… That was when we started looking around for markets where we could also implement our woman entrepreneurship programme.

So, moving to markets outside the US was not just to boost our lipstick sales… There were several opportunities outside the US; so quickly we went from over 50% market share in the US to just about 17% domestic sales in 2011-12.

One thing about developing markets is that we could find thousands of women in every country who wanted some independent earnings.

On the role of women on company boards: I was on the board of Daimler, a premier automobile company. Now, the auto industry is seen as serious male business worldwide. In Europe, as per regulations, a company requires 30% representation on their respective boards. The focus in the EU on requiring women on management roles is huge.

In that part of the world, you have really qualified women coming up through the engineering route… Look at Mary Barra, the CEO of General Motors. Now, there, you have a woman running a huge car company. So, even in an industry like automobiles, it can happen. Of course, there’s an aspect of regulation — which is not a bad thing, I feel.

Secondly, with specific [reference] to the supposedly male-dominated auto industry, when you look at the passenger car segment, who do you think is the consumer? You’d be surprised to know, 80% of passenger-car buying decisions are taken by women in the family: the colour, the type, backseat space, etc.… 51% of the world population is women. No matter what company you’re running, you cannot ignore the fact that women take big consumption-related decisions. Therefore, women representation is critical in management teams.

Also read: ET Women‘s Forum – Complete Coverage

On equal pay: Not offering equal pay for the same job is not acceptable in 2018. In the US, a woman is paid 78 cents to a dollar for the same job (paid to a man). This was 77 cents a few years ago. So, women in the US have seen just a one-penny increase in five years. This is absolutely unacceptable and there’s no reason for that. It is the duty of the CEOs, the HR departments and the government to see that women and male employees are paid equally for the same job. We’ve to be genderblind on pay, on matters relating to pay, and it has to start overnight.

On woman entrepreneurs: Only $1 of $23 of capital goes to woman entrepreneurs. So, clearly, they are denied access to funds. Equality in financial inclusion is important. Woman entrepreneurs grow their business as fast, or faster, on an average. They employ more women; they pay women equally and they offer better healthcare benefits. So, there are enough proof points that woman entrepreneurs are not only good for business, but also for the whole society.

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