Boss of Citroen: 'They ignore me and turn to my husband'

Boss of Citroen: 'They ignore me and turn to my husband'

Mansplaining, being mistaken for a secretary and receiving inappropriate comments due to gender - sexism happens to the best of us.

Whilst society has come on leaps and bounds, it’s still rife, even at the top of the corporate ladder. Linda Jackson, who became the first female Chief Executive of Citroen three years ago, has been subject to sexism. She explained to The Mail during the Frankfurt Motor Show how sales staff have ignored her – turning to her husband instead.

The 58-year-old told The Mail that when she goes on mystery shopping exercises, she learns a lot about how the customer is treated. “Sometimes you go into a showroom with your husband and they just turn to your male partner and say, 'how would you like to spend your money?' This is what we need to change. We want to make it easier for anyone to buy a car.

“When women go into a dealership, they want to touch, feel and drive the car. They don't want hard pressure. It's not about being a woman. It's about how I would want to be treated as a woman.”

Earlier this year, Jackson was named the 'most influential Briton in the global car industry', in the annual Auto Express 'Brit List' – the first time a female was named in the top spot. She admitted that a decade ago, it would have been impossible to envisage a woman in her position.

She said: “When I told people I was in the car industry they used to think I was a mechanic. But being a woman, providing you do a great job everyone remembers you. Though it's not very politically correct to say it, I'm afraid.”

Uprooting stereotypes that are deeply embedded in our culture is easier said than done – and HR has an important role to play in eradicating workplace sexism, particularly in sectors that have traditionally been male dominated, for example, the automotive industry and STEM careers.

Lila Ibrahim, Chief Operating Officer at Coursera, a technology company, believes that throughout her career, she’s figured out the best way to respond to sexism. This technique, she says “is by [cultivating] a confident, thoughtful outlook, understand where the bias is coming from, and build and a strong support system.”

Her tips include embracing your differences: “Bias feeds on insecurity. We all have the impulse to hide our differences. But if you’re ashamed of who you are, you’re silently telling the world that you agree with stereotypes. Hold you head high and remind yourself that your differences are an asset, not a liability.” Read more about Ibrahim's way of combatting sexism, here.

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