Megan Closset Product Manager for Volkswagen and product planner for Golf models.
March is Women’s History month and thus a time when we take stock of the presence of women in our respective industries. We take notice of what glass ceilings have been broken and catalog women’s “firsts” with the expectation that the “seconds” and “thirds” will quickly follow and become commonplace.
Volkswagen of Duluth, acknowledges that the auto industry has long been male-dominated. As recently as 2018 only 8% of the executives in the top 20 motor vehicle and parts companies were women, a number that amounts to just 16 women. Over half of these companies had no women executives on their boards. They certainly have a smaller pool to draw from as women held 26.7% of jobs in the motor vehicle industry.
In the World Economic Forum’s 2022 Global Gender Gap Report, The U.S. ranked 27th in the world with a gender gap of 0.769. Germany, the home country of so many of our products, ranked 10th with a gender gap score of .801. This is reflected in the presence of high-ranking women in the organization. A couple of years ago, some of these women were interviewed about their place in the company:
Shani Jayant, Principle UX Designer at the Volkswagen Innovation and Engineering Center, California.
Shani Jayant, Principal UX designer, Innovation and Engineering Center California: I lead the Inclusive Mobility initiative from the Silicon Valley IECC campus. Our mission is to help design vehicles and services that can improve transportation and the quality of life for everyone, especially people with disabilities. We do this by working closely with disability communities from the start, so we can inform the future design of accessible self-driving electric vehicles that will come out years down the road.
Ellen Collins, Laboratory Evaluation Specialist, Volkswagen Chattanooga Assembly Plant: I primarily test, evaluate and release components according to material specs for vehicle parts for production, and field and factory issues. This year will mark my 10th year at Volkswagen.
Megan Closset, Product Manager, Volkswagen HQ: I am the product planner for what is arguably our most impassioned group of vehicles – the Golf family. I have the opportunity to connect with our most enthusiastic customers on a personal level. As a lifelong Volkswagen fan, and employee since 2005, I’ve always gone to enthusiast events as a customer first, employee second. I consider everyone who has a Volkswagen an extended family member or friend, especially on the enthusiast side.
Dawn Dameron, Senior Manager of Customer Care, Auburn Hills Corporate Office: My role is to inspire my team to deliver experiences that leave our customers, dealers and prospective customers feeling great about the brand and our products. I would argue I have the coolest job in the company. I have an immediate opportunity to really impact the way a customer or shopper views the brand. I absolutely love what I do and feel fortunate to work with such a dedicated group of people.
Ellen Cross, Laboratory Evaluation Specialist at the Volkswagen Chattanooga Assembly Plant, has been with Volkswagen for a decade.
Closset: “I love the teamwork and camaraderie at Volkswagen. My workgroup has become my friend group. I love the people I work and interact with, and it’s not just the people on my team—it’s everyone. My favorite car aspect of the job is … the cars! I love the cars! Whether it’s driving, sharing them with customers and advocates, or welcoming someone new into the Volkswagen family, it’s really cool and rewarding.”
Collins: “I enjoy working with individuals who are from diverse backgrounds. It has been motivating, as well as interesting, working with such awesome associates.”
Jayant: “I enjoy the people! My teammates have been such great influences on me and my work ethic. Also, working with the disability community has taught me a lot about what it means to be an ally, and what it means to live out diversity and inclusion instead of just saying the words. I hope that diversity truly becomes a bigger part of Volkswagen, especially around hiring practices.”
Dawn Dameron, Senior Manager of Customer Care, Volkswagen Auburn Hills Corporate Office
Dameron: “Be genuine, sincere, and take stand for what you believe in – this will gain you the trust and respect needed to be successful. The simple things can go a long way.”
Collins: “It’s your choices that show who you truly are, not your abilities. Be courageous and brave. Take bold steps, and never forget to enjoy the journey.”
Jayant: “While it’s great to be a car geek, you can also enter the automotive industry in other ways! I knew nothing about cars but joined my group because of my past work with multimodal interactions and working with the disability community for many years.”
Closset: “If you are confident, study your craft and know you’re an equal, you will succeed. Also, having dealership experience, whether you’re male or female, is very valuable. My experience there gave me the motivation to be a sales trainer and later a product trainer. I would also recommend finding a mentor.”
At Volkswagen of Duluth, we appreciate how these women have improved our products and corporate customer service. And we are grateful for the women on our staff such as Sales Manager Serina Sprecco, Office Manager Melody Maleski, office Administrator Rach Vandervegt and Service Assistant Elle Gillen. We welcome you to stop by our showroom and speak with any of our experienced Volkswagen representatives regarding your next Volkswagen or servicing your existing vehicle.