Big interview: Julia Muir

Julia Muir

Julia Muir, Vice President of the IMI and founder of the Automotive 30% Club, explains the value of diversity and why no one should face barriers to their progression.

What inspired you to pursue a career in the automotive industry?

From the age of eight, I helped my dad run his Hometune mobile engine tuning business. I would answer the phone to book jobs – remembering to tell any owner of an MGB GT that we wouldn’t touch them with a barge pole – and in the school holidays I would accompany him to fill in the service check sheet.

I grew up interested in cars and how they worked – or didn’t work. You could say that my dad, who ignored gender stereotypes by sharing his love for cars and football with his daughter, was the inspiration. And when Perrys Motor Sales came to my university to find graduate trainees, I leapt at the chance.

How will your new role as IMI Vice President help move the automotive industry forward?

The IMI is uniquely placed to be at the forefront of shaping the leadership, culture and skills the industry needs to rise to the challenges it’s facing. The Automotive 30% Club is a network of 70 progressive leaders, who are building inclusive cultures and seeking skills from diverse backgrounds, and the combination of my roles as Founder of the Club and Vice President of the IMI will bring these two automotive membership networks together.

What are the main challenges faced by the industry?

In the short-term, the industry has to cope with immediate challenges, such as a misguided regulatory emphasis on BEVs versus any other forms of reducing the harm caused by cars. Arguments over the business models used for distribution are obscuring the fact that the real change needed is in job design and skills; that staff need to have the skills to help customers transition to the new technology and maintain and fix the new vehicles.

In the long-term, we need to seek more opportunities to grow revenue through the invention of green technologies and mobility solutions, rather than succumbing to the existential threats to the sector posed by climate change.

What innovations are you excited to see come to fruition?

Creating products and systems that enable us to travel safely but don’t harm the environment is an exciting venture. Instead of being part of the climate change problem, we need to become a big part of the solution.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is probably going to be the most significant disruptive technology in our businesses and lives, and it will happen faster than we can currently imagine. In just one year, most of us have become familiar with using AI for completing basic research and writing tasks. But there are amazing opportunities for its use in advanced engineering, design and quality control that are only just beginning. Unleashing AI, combined with the hyper-speed of quantum computing, will mean that problems that would have taken years to solve could have a solution within weeks or even days.

The refinement of AI in cybercrime will also be a huge threat. Protection measures will undoubtedly become increasingly multi-layered and onerous, and the diligence, honesty, trustworthiness and dedication of staff will be paramount.

What recent changes have you observed in the automotive industry regarding gender diversity and inclusivity?

When I founded the Automotive 30% Club in 2016, I was constantly battling the accusation that acting to make the sector more gender-balanced was positive discrimination against men, implying that the only way for a woman to get a job would be at the expense of a man. The misogyny underpinning this assumption, that women could only ever be diversity hires rather than being as good as or better than their male peers, was rife.

The majority of automotive leaders now understand that traditional culture, policies and practices exclude women and other under-represented groups, and they will be left behind in the race for skills if they don’t adopt an inclusive approach that all employees will benefit from.

I established the Automotive 30% Club as a network of CEOs and MDs with the main aim of moving responsibility and accountability for the culture and skills away from solely HR and EDI professionals and firmly into the remit of senior operational leadership.

This transfer of ownership and knowledge has probably been the biggest change, and as a result, 41% of the member companies have already achieved our KPI of filling at least 30% of key leadership positions in the member organisations with women by 2030.

What advice would you give women wanting to enter or progress in the sector?

Look for companies that have committed to being inclusive of women, such as Automotive 30% Club member companies or those that have high numbers of women in management and leadership roles.

I would also advise women in the sector their progression, are not fairly paid or are experiencing sustained misogyny or harassment to know their true worth and leave their employer and move to another automotive employer where there is a better gender balance.

Find out more information about the Automotive 30% Club

This is an edited extract from IMI's new MotorPro magazine, received free as part of IMI membership.