Having just been named the most influential British woman in the car industry by MT’s sister brand, Autocar, Jackson is enthusiastically banging the drum for greater female representation in what has traditionally been a pretty male and pale sector.
‘The car industry has had a very macho image in the past, and it is still quite blokey’ she admits. The Car Guys – the global clique of UK, European and US execs who run the big firms – are called guys for a reason, after all. Only one of the major manufacturers – GM – is run by a women, Mary Barra, who became CEO in 2014.
‘That needs to change. Women are the decision makers when it comes to buying many cars, and at least 50% of the cars we sell – more for some models – are bought by women. So we need more women in the industry, if only to reflect the diversity of the customer base’ says Jackson.
According to figures from women in industry lobby group Catalyst, only 16% of the UK’s car manufacturing workforce is female, compared to 18% in Germany and a ‘whopping’ 22% in Sweden.
Why are these numbers so low? ‘Part of the issue is that the business is seen as being all about engineering and sales, but that’s not true. People just don’t see the range and breadth of roles that are available, and we aren’t getting enough women or young people at all levels, from apprentices upwards.’
Jackson, who worked her way up from a summer job doing invoicing at the old Jaguar factory in Browns Lane, admits that back in those days she was even more of a rarity. ‘Walking around the factory as an 18yr old was quite an experience, and I didn’t see many other women there. But it certainly never put me off.’
She’s keen to dispel another myth about the car business too. ‘No you don’t have to be a petrolhead. My background is in finance and I have an MBA too, I’m not an engineer.
‘That doesn’t mean I don’t like cars and enjoy driving – I do, I just have different perspective. Because I am not a technical expert it goves me the freedom to ask the stupid questions that no-one else will, to say "What will it mean for the customer?"
Joining Jackson at the head of Autocar’s list of 100 most influential women are six other category winners, as follows:
Linda Jackson, CEO Automobiles Citroen SA
Helen Emsley, executive director, global design and user experience, GMC
Daniella Bagnall, F-Pace chief product engineer, Jaguar Land Rover
Josephine Payne, global assembly and test manager, powertrain manufacturing engineering, Ford Motor Company
Fiona Pargeter, head of global PR communications, Jaguar Land Rover
Julia Woodhouse, director, global powertrain components and driveline purchasing, Ford Motor Company
Angela Shepherd, network operations director, Mercedes-Benz Cars UK
View the full list of Autocar’s 100 Most Influential Women