Meet The Woman Who Is Navigating Cross-cutural Barriers In The Automative Industry

BY Harper's BAZAAR Arabia / Jun 5 2019 / 22:45 PM

“I never faced the pressures that women cannot join a certain field, and I didn’t feel any barriers being a woman coming into the automotive sector.”

Meet The Woman Who Is Navigating Cross-cutural Barriers In The Automative Industry

Egyptian-born, German-educated Mona Mito is the PR and Marketing Manager for Korean luxury car brand Genesis Automotive, managing its initiatives across Africa and the Middle East. However it’s not common to see women working in the automotive sector - according to February 2018 statistics from the Center for Performance Improvement, women occupy just 26.7% of the positions in automotive manufacturing and vehicle equipment manufacturing industries.  And, women in executive-level positions in vehicle manufacturing is only 16.9%. But Mona wants to change that.

“Sure, most little boys like to play with cars and little girls with Barbies, but things are changing. Women today like to enjoy their cars and they are selecting their lifestyle car, one that fits their personality. They like to be indulged in what they are driving around in.”

While there are more women working in the automotive sector than in the past 10 to 20 years, there is still a long way to go, as the statistics don’t lie. Women of colour are marginalised even further, making up just 8.9% of the manufacturing workforce and less than 3% of manufacturing management. But from a young age, Mona always knew she wanted to work in the automotive industry, and she went for it.

Born and raised in Aachen, Germany for the first five years of her life, Mona was immediately exposed to another culture and mentality outside of her ethnicity. When her family returned to Alexandria, Egypt, Mona struggled with Arabic so her father put her in a German school. “It was the German culture and education system that taught me the importance of taking responsibility and making plans,” said Mona. “It helped me learn how to make a decision and go with it.”

Mona takes to the stage

As with the best things in life, slow growth is key. Mona started working for a Mercedes dealer site in Egypt, and after her Master’s degree, she moved to Dubai. But in April 2018, Mona wanted to expand her experience to another automotive company and took a job with another luxury car brand, Genesis. Having done customer service, customer relationship management (CRM), sales, product management, marketing, communications- all with Mercedes- now Mona is managing PR and Marketing with the Korean car company.

When asked why she chose marketing, Mona said: “marketing is creativity and it’s not monotonous. There is something new every day to learn and it allows me to be innovative with a new dilemma in the market. It keeps me sharp to stay on top with what our competitors are doing, too - it’s not like finance. It forces me to stay updated, and this is what makes me excited about what I’m doing.”

Just 7.3% of those employed in automotive repair and maintenance positions are female,  according to the Center for Performance Improvement*. But for Mona, she had to find out why women are choosing to work for Genesis’ service centers. “The women told me that they enjoy their jobs so the automotive industry isn’t for a specific gender: it’s for everyone who enjoys what they do.”

Being a new brand in Dubai’s luxury market isn’t easy, and Genesis faces challenges as any company that breaks into a new market does. But the company is proud of its products. “We see ourselves as a respectable automotive brand, and we have a message which is: ‘We are a luxury brand and a luxury brand should not only be a German brand, but, you have to try it.’”

Discussing the fact that when people think of the Koreans, they don’t think of South Korea as producing luxury cars, she says: “Exactly. You know what, we are the first luxury automotive car coming out of Korea. That’s why we have these challenges. But if someone just tries driving the car they’ll be surprised. We have a very nice product on the road and when people see it and try it, they’ll agree.”

When talking about the strength of Arab women, Mona shares some insight which challenges Western stereotypes of how women are treated. “You will see in Arab households, parents are guiding and raising the children. Once a child grows up they can take responsibilities and they are not depending on anyone. This is why Arab women are so strong and confident. A lot of success is coming in the Arab world because of women. They have long-term plans and goals, they know how to balance their personal lives and work lives. All of these things give the confidence to Arabs to achieve what they want to achieve.”

When looking at her life journey, Mona always knew she wanted to work in the automotive sector, but it’s not something she seems to have worried about, but rather enjoyed the opportunities and jobs as they came. “My advice for those wanting to work in the automotive sector is that everyone has to learn the background of the industry they’re in from scratch, and then grow organically to reach the high position that you want. Learn from everything and listen to top management, go to meetings, read all that you can so that you can enrich your mind. Once you’re in a higher position, you cannot say, ‘I’m only CRM or Marketing.’ You will need managerial skills to manage a team and be confident about what you are doing.”

Genesis’ 2019 marketing goal in the Middle East is focusing on its messaging. Our doors are open and we want to listen to the customer experience, to get their feedback. Everything we do is down to the final detail to make our customers and potential customers happy. 

Genesis Dubai showroom is located in Diera, where you can book a test drive.

*Centre For Performance Improvement