We sat down with entrepreneur, author, public speaker, career coach and founder of The Step Up Club Alice Olins to get her perspective on leasing solutions in the modern age and what can be done to break the bias of the inherent male-focus within the automotive industry.
Tell us about Step Up Club. What was missing from this area of industry that made you consider this business opportunity?
Back in 2017, it was very obvious what was missing: inclusive, accessible female-skewed professional support.
Back then, career development was still stuck in personality-less boardrooms that didn't necessarily resonate with the nuanced versions of success that many women aspire towards. The industry needed bringing up to date, Step Up Club has absolutely been instrumental in creating this shift and continuing to innovate in this much-needed space.
What more can be done for women in business?
How long is a piece of string? Women need better female role models, but role models at the top are hampered on their way up because they are still working within structures that favour (and were created by) men.
It is important to say, I am not anti-men, I love and respect so many incredible men in my life but there is no hiding from the fact that gender parity in the workplace - in life! - is still a long way in the future, and therefore women need spaces in which they can build and grow in way that fit our specific strengths and approaches.
Of course, it is too general to say all women act in a certain way or think alike that could never be true. It doesn't distract though from the simple truth that when women feel supported and challenged in female spaces, they thrive in their daily lives.
What role can the automotive industry play in helping women achieve more in business?
The automotive industry to me still feels very masculine; the overused relationship between horsepower and masculinity is so endemic that it's almost impossible to not visualise a man when you see a fast car.
So there is still plenty to be done. Understanding that power comes in myriad forms, and that strength can be displayed as a show of vulnerability, for example, are modern interpretations that would stand out in the mix.
What are your thoughts on women’s use of mobility solutions (buying/leasing cars etc)?
I don't think this is a male or female solution, rather it's a type of purchase flexibility that has responded to a universal aspiration for ultimate choice.
We want to - and should be able to - choose how we finance our cars just as we now do, or increasingly are able to, choose how often we go to the office and at what times we work.
Do you think leasing is widely understood amongst your peer group? Can more be done to educate people on the benefits?
Personally, my age group fully understands the leasing structure; around education, I'd say piggy backing on that flexibility narrative would be wise and feel timely too.
Do you or anyone you know have an electric vehicle? If not, is it something you’d consider?
The move to electric is everywhere, and lots of our friends are making vehicle choices based around the current electric options or delaying buying or leasing a new car until there's a wider range, and thus more competitive rates too.
In a traditionally male-dominated industry - especially in terms of advertising - how can we break the bias of ‘cars = men’?
Don't keep advertising men with cars!
I mean in our house, I drive far more often than my husband. With 3 children, I'm in the car almost daily; it's my car, for all intents and purposes. This is a powerful truth and one that many advertisers haven't yet fully grasped.
Mothers are key family decision makers - and my friends who aren't mothers, are even more reliant on their cars, as they are constantly on the move, socialising, working longer hours and having to be more independent.
There are plenty of narratives around women and cars that are under explored; even the Mum who uses her car for 5 minutes peace after drop off - sitting in the car outside your house, we all do it. Hit that nail on the head, and you'll have women smiling in solidarity across the country.
I think humour is a great gender leveller; showing that you understand how we actually live, rather than showing cars driving around mountain roads at sunset.
Do you see leasing as a vehicle solution that empowers women to get what they want and deserve?
It offers a different type of financial freedom, so if that is what you're looking for, then yes, in a sense it does.
I don't think it marries particularly well with 'deserving' we aren't more deserving, but we'd like to be better understood that's for sure.
What can be done in car solutions to empower more women to get the cars they want? And make the process as easy as possible?
I think car showrooms are intimidating; I wouldn't go on my own.
Is there space there to be more expansive in how you think when designing them? And again, just really talking to the lives we actually lead, rather than these fantasy ones.
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