Women and cars

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Chit Juan

Chit Juan

I never thought I could discuss terms like cab chassis, power train and groups of words like “Light Commercial Vehicles” to ladies in a global summit. I was born into a family engaged in an automotive manufacturing business and I have always reserved discussion of such business terms with only my family, buyers or business associates.

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Imagine my surprise upon knowing I was seated with the vice president for Light Commercial Vehicles of Renault France. And next to her, a female engineer who designed and patented their Female DNA car, and further down the table more women engaged in the manufacturing of France’s No. 1 brand in commercial trucks.

These are just five of the Women of Renault. There is such a group composed of over 4,000 women who work in Renault, who hold conferences, conduct training and leadership seminars and who attend the Global Summit of Women, an annual networking and learning event for women entrepreneurs, women corporate leaders in private, government institutions and even non-profits, too.

The car designed with women users in mind has accessible trunk space, an all-round box, an easy access seat, and other features that you right away would know was designed because the designer knows what a woman goes through in her everyday use of cars, most of which are designed with only male drivers or users in mind.

There is something thoughtful about the Female DNA car and the management that allows research and development to have a female skew, knowing women are 50 percent of the users of a particular model. And this model hits the sweet spot: women. Women account for over 80 percent of purchases globally, cars and other major buys included.

Here in the country, we also have a lot of women in the auto industry. There is Beth Lee who now is doing electric vehicles, Fe Agudo who heads Hyundai Automotive Resources Inc. (HARI) and I heard there are a few more who are CEOs of other car brands.

Lot Tan, my business partner and friend is into Yamaha motorcycles and golf cars.

And not to forget—our very own family. I have been raised in a household where girls, now ladies, can discuss carburetors and piston rings. To this day, my older sister Elizabeth understands this and is responsible for procurement of odds and ends for cars, automotive parts and other unusual stuff like aluminum material and other stuff we need in our business—the manufacture of jeeps and jeep body parts—which my father started and bequeathed to us almost 50 years ago now. So we grew up talking “cars and jeeps.”

We grew up working summers in my father’s company. We got exposed to the business and to this day I still do trips abroad to meet our European buyers in France and the UK, talking “body tubs” and “tailgates” and “bonnets”(what the US buyers call hoods are bonnets in Europe). My nephew Rommel and I also went to the USA to meet new buyers for our new lines of automotive parts. It is in our DNA and we can dream cars and jeeps and speak the language.

This is probably why I connected to these women from Renault. My good friend TriccieSison was witness to the lunch conversation revolving around light commercial vehicles, cabs and chassis and such terms other women may not be exposed to in the normal course of business. But we connected.

So there you have it. Women can definitely be in what we know traditionally as “men’s territories” like coffee and tobacco. After all, in a poll undertaken at the Global Summit of Women on “who decides what car to buy?” 300 women voted “me” and only a few voted “my partner.” This confirms that women make 80 percent of buying decisions, whether its cars or tomorrow’s type of bread or coffee.

So it does make sense to put women in leadership roles in automotive companies, be it Marketing or Research and Development, and surely they can bring that extra asset called intuition. Besides intuition, women’s brains are wired for a lot of details, as with automotive circuitry and other details, which can spell the difference between a car being “woman-friendly” or being just “driver-friendly.”

It was nice meeting these Women of Renault. Thank you, Adriana Carneiro Ribiero, vice president for Light Commercial Vehicles at Renault. Your team made me feel so at home because I used to think ladies did not want to discuss cars over lunch.

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Chit Juan is a founder and owner of ECHOStore sustainable lifestyle, ECHOmarket sustainable farms and ECHOcafe in Serendra , Podium, Centris QC mall and Davao Cits. She also is President of the Women’s Business Council of the Philippines and President of the Philippine Coffee Board Inc., two non-profits close to her heart. She often speaks to corporates and NGOs on social entrepreneurship, women empowerment, and coffee. You can follow her on twitter.com/chitjuan or find her on facebook:Pacita “Chit” Juan. Email her at puj@echostore.ph

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