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Our Women's Perspectives: Fighting Sexual Harassment and Changing Sexual Stereotypes in the Automotive World

Published Jul 28th 2008, 12:15pm by Jody DeVere in Featured Articles

Jody_devere_webs3004444 AskPatty's President and CEO Jody DeVere recently sent me a link to an article she had found at Newsweek magazine. Titled "More Than A Tune-Up," the 1997 article described occurrences of sexual harassment at a Mitsubishi plant which helped launch detailed training programs and management reforms that ultimately made this company's policies on sexual harassment far more stringent than those of most Fortune 500 companies.

Background: In 1997, As a result of two harassment lawsuits filed on behalf of women workers, Mitsubishi paid more than $9 million to 27 women. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, between 1988 and 1993 Mitsubishi had tolerated terrifying examples of sexual harassment by hundreds of male employees who allegedly used air guns to shoot painful blasts at women's chests and crotches, grabbed women by their breasts, simulated masturbation, or even exposed themselves. The EEOC said the company had "discouraged complaints and permitted retaliation against women who dared to complain."

The company did not deny that serious harassment occurred, and in the years after the suits were filed, made great efforts to transform itself into the kind of workplace where such things don't occur. Mitsubishi hired Lynn Martin, former labor secretary to George Bush, who did more than just review the company's harassment policies; her team also created a regime of sexual harassment and supervisory training and implemented an ambitious plan for a host of worker-friendly changes.

Ten years later, the Newsweek article is still a fascinating case-study on what it can take to change opinions on sexual harassment and stereotypes in an industry that has traditionally been dominated by men. Here at AskPatty, we strive to educate people on what it means to be Female Friendly. An Ask Patty female friendly certified dealer is a dealer that creates a safe and comfortable environment where women feel welcome and is a dealer that makes the experience of purchasing and maintaining her vehicle a pleasant one. Ask Patty trained and certified dealers are held to a high level of customer satisfaction for women consumers. Female friendly is not just a catchphrase; it's our way of life.

Lindaprzygodski So what's it like nowadays for women in the automotive industry? I asked all the women bloggers on our staff to share their opinions on this article and reflect on different aspects of this from each of our own varied backgrounds.

I asked each of our writers to compose a meaningful response discussing the topic of what it's like living as a woman in a male-dominated business. We agreed that each woman's post did not have to specifically address harassment, but just the challenges each of us may have encountered or observed during our careers.

Becky_scott Each day this week, will be presenting a different writer's perspective article on this topic , and I hope our readers will come back to read each day's installment. Jody DeVere will share her thoughts on the changing attitudes of women working in the auto biz, I will discuss what it's been like as a cargirl in the automotive publishing world, Linda Przygodski will discuss what it has been like as a woman working in sports, and Becky Scott will share her own challenges choosing between career and motherhood.

Much has changed in the decade since this Newsweek article was originally published. And we sincerely hope you will share some of your own thoughts and opinions as the week progresses.

Thank you so much for making your safe place to come and learn about cars. We're so glad we can be here for you!

Brandy_schaffels_s By Brandy Schaffels
AskPatty Editor

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