It’s no exaggeration to say women are markedly under-represented in the motoring world. I’m one of a handful of female motoring journalists in Australia and I find the lack of women bewildering. Not only is the scale unevenly balanced in the journalism world; it’s the same story at the senior executive level and in motorsport.
It can be intimidating at times due to the dominance of testosterone every where you turn. However, the women that I have come across in the industry are inspirational to me in many aspects of their lives.
One such woman is Anna Burgdorf, General Manager Corporate Communications for Audi Australia. She’s determined and passionate about this vibrant, fast-paced and challenging industry, and the opportunities it offers for women.
How did you get into the automotive industry?
I started my career with Audi in 1997 as Public Relations Manager of Astre German Automotive (the importer of Audi vehicles in Australia) – it was just me in the team and we were selling about 2,500 cars/year. In 2004, Audi Australia Pty Ltd became a solely owned National Sales Company of AUDI AG, and at the time I was General Manager of Press/PR with a team of 2.5 people. In 2010, I took 11 months maternity leave for the birth of my daughter and I returned in 2011. My role was expended to General Manager Corporate Communications which includes Press/PR and also the brand’s Sponsorship and Events portfolio which includes customer experiences. Our team is now 12 people.
Do you feel women are under-represented?
While I don’t have any statistical data to hand as I write this, I can draw on my almost 20 years in the industry and say that yes, women are under-represented, especially in senior roles, but this is slowly and surely changing. Diversity of all kinds is improving, and benefiting automotive companies and brands. Women tend to have stronger representation in areas such as Marketing and Corporate/Public Relations, as well as Events and Customer Experiences. There are undoubtedly much fewer high-profile women holding positions within dealerships such as Dealer Principal roles, although I’m pleased that Audi now has 4 female DPs. There’s still a long way to go for balance but hopefully it means that other women see that it’s changing and it encourages them to enter the industry.
In terms of female motoring writers – there’s a major shortfall in this area. Women account for around 50% of our owners, and have a strong say in around 90% of car-buying decisions within the premium automotive brands and yet so few women are actually reviewing cars and writing about them for other women. I can think of about five or six people. What’s most critical though, is that women want to be treated intelligently with their purchasing decisions – we are every bit as capable as understanding technical details as the next person, and our female owners appreciate performance from their vehicle and want to enjoy their driving experience every bit as much as their male counterparts – and sometimes that’s not recognised. We do need to address this lack of awareness in our industry.
What is the biggest challenge for women in the industry?
I’m not sure that the challenge is only industry-related, but in general it’s the balance or juggle of family and career. Women often have less flexibility to work longer hours required at a senior level if they have a young family and want to attempt work-life balance – but that’s a challenge for working women in general. Automotive has long been a male-dominated industry as men can be more passionate about cars and that’s what attracts them in the first place. But it’s a very dynamic and challenging industry and for me, it’s a love of a fantastic brand with a strong heritage that piqued my interest in 1997 when I started at Audi.
I think there has to be some form of compromise for women when the family is young – you need and want to be home for your children, but a great career also needs love and attention too. It’s a balancing act and companies can support women with flexible hours, an understanding that it does take compromise to attract and retain good staff and of course, the opportunity for part-time roles when women return from maternity leave. Ensuring that great employees, who happen to be women, want to return to work after having a family is critical and this is all about the leadership of the company which makes all the difference – paid maternity leave, access to keep a company car, phone and laptop for example, childcare, part-time roles, job-sharing – it all helps to retain great women and will pay off in the future as loyal employees give back so much when they know they are supported and appreciated.
Why do you love what you do & who you work for?
I work for an amazing brand which I love – Audi.
I’ve always loved cars and am passionate about my career. The chance to join Audi back in 1997 when it was a relative newcomer to Australian luxury car buyers was a fantastic and challenging opportunity. We all work very hard, but it’s hugely rewarding to see how we’ve developed the brand in Australia since that time. I’ve grown as much as the company has. And I have a very supportive boss who allows me the flexibility to drop my daughter at school and be home in time to read her stories and put her to bed.
And most importantly, I’ve had the chance to develop a really talented team that I thoroughly enjoy working with every day. We have a lot of fun and we deliver strong results together. Perhaps I’m addressing some of the imbalance – I have a team of 10 women, and one man! But, I’m adding another bloke soon!
Does International Women’s Day hold any significance for you? If so, what the message would you like to share with women today?
IWD serves as a reminder that we are very fortunate in this country – which is not the case for many women from other cultures where gender equity simply does not exist. There’s such a long way to go for these women but you have to start somewhere and IWD is important to table the topic on the agenda of all women and men. We should all be playing our part to encourage equality and support the advancement of women.
There are many more much cleverer women than I who have been writing about this topic for years – I’m sure you don’t need me to name them – but in general the message is that Women are brilliant creatures – creative, resourceful, strong and funny – and that’s more than enough to celebrate. And I’m proud to say that Audi has celebrated just this for the past seven years as the founding sponsor of the InStyle and Audi Women of Style awards. This annual program is a very special one that identifies, acknowledges, encourages and celebrates Australian women. Read more about The InStyle and Audi Women of Style Awards here
The Carousel thanks Tegan Lawson from Car Advice for this article. Click here to