Working in the automotive industry and becoming the CEO of an emblematic brand such as Citroën hadn’t crossed my mind at all as a young woman just starting university. My plan was to become an English or History teacher and I only took a two-month summer job in Jaguar’s accounts department at 18 to earn a bit of money. Little did I know that I would end up bitten by the car bug and never look back.
SEP 05th 2016
Mystery Monday: Citroën Global CEO Linda Jackson discusses life in the driving seat
More than 35 years since I started working in automotive, I’m still often asked what it’s like to be a woman running a car company. Thankfully, the world has changed now but, when I joined in 2005, it was unthinkable that a British woman would be CEO of a French car manufacturer. I think it’s important to encourage women to aspire for jobs in the industry. Autocar magazine recently identified the top 100 British women working in the automotive industry and I was honoured to receive the title of ‘Most Influential Woman in the Car Industry’. I think their initiative is an important step forward in addressing one of the major challenges of our times, enabling women to obtain titles like mine.
Women bring a different perspective to the way of operating a brand, and considering that fifty percent of sales are to women and the decision behind buying a car is often also a woman’s, needless to say we need diversity in the industry. At the same time, buying a car is based on emotion; it’s a product that you like, you want it to express who you are and be able to personalise it and this is something that we want to introduce to a younger audience to change perspectives about the industry. Clearly it’s not macho, I prove that myself because I’m not an engineer, my background is in finance. We need women and young people to cross that barrier and bring new ideas to the table.
Work life balance is more and more important now and, as a woman in business, I feel a responsibility to help my employees achieve this. Not just for women and young people, but for everybody. It’s in the early stages now, but at Citroën we are starting to look at how we can encourage working from home in order to enable this work life balance.
My job is 180 per cent of my life so this has been a personal challenge for me as well. I spend so much time travelling, I feel that I’m based all around the world. I’ll be in China five to six times a year as it’s our first market, then I’ll have to fly to India Pacific, South America and Europe on a regular basis. This takes up an enormous amount of my time, however I try to set up rules and respect them – I don’t send or reply to e-mails at the weekend and I don’t schedule meetings before 8.30am or after 6.30pm. There are many women that are passionate about their work and also manage a family and this is not an easy task. The industry needs to adapt and embrace these needs and changes in how the world works now.
My hope is that my staff don’t think ‘we’ve got a British woman’ but rather ‘we have a great boss’.
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