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To celebrate this year’s International Day of the Girl, Ford welcomed two young women to take over CEO roles at its Essex HQ and London Human Centred Design Lab.

Nataly, aged 19, and 18-year-old Nicole were selected to take over the real-life roles and responsibilities of Lisa Brankin, Ford of Britain & Ireland chair and MD, and Usha Raghavachari, European Human Centred Design director.

Nataly was briefed on the launch of the next-generation plug-in Transit Custom Nugget campervan, before developing this Instagram to be published. She led other sessions progressing online sales and social media projects, before joining Nicole at the Human Centered Design Lab.

Nataly said afterwards: “At Ford, everyone genuinely listened and valued my input. It was heartening to feel truly heard and it taught me the importance of open-mindedness. I've gained valuable insights about STEM subjects in industry and realized that women can indeed thrive in leadership roles.”

At Ford’s Human Centered Design Lab, Nicole brainstormed with Usha speaking points for an upcoming innovation conference, provided input for a customer research synthesis and led a marketing discussion for a new commercial vehicle project, before Nataly joined to jointly develop and built a prototype concept destined for a future electric vehicle.

Nicole said: “Pursuing a career in STEM, especially in a male-dominated automotive sector, might seem intimidating but it's encouraging to see an increasing number of women joining. Ford is actively promoting this change, which signifies their commitment to diversity. As young women, it makes me feel we can always believe in ourselves, and never let societal expectations hold us back.”

Breaking down barriers

Ford joined Plan International UK’s ‘Girls Takeover’ initiative to help promote the STEM subjects often required for careers in the automotive industry.

Annually, Ford reports on progress and gender pay, which showed a 1.6 per cent bias in favour of women – meaning they earned slightly more than men. The report puts this in the context of gender representation across different areas and roles, as 80 per cent of Ford’s female workforce is concentrated in staff and middle management positions.

Half a dozen outreach programmes, including the Girls’ Takeover partnership with Plan International UK, promote Ford to all young people, and females especially – helping Ford to foster an inclusive and balanced workplace.

For the United Nations’ International Day of the Girl, Plan International UK supported girls to take over business, politics and media roles, to showcase their skills, and get their voices heard particularly in industries where females are the minority.

Research conducted on 1,000 girls and young women aged 14-24, by Plan International UK, found that women and girls are still experiencing barriers to pursuing leadership roles in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).

Almost half (49 per cent) of girls and young women do not feel a senior leadership position in STEM is within their reach in the future, and 39 per cent felt they would not be taken seriously if they were to pursue a career in this sector.

Reflecting on the day, Lisa Brankin, Ford of Britain & Ireland chair and MD, said: “Today is International Day of the Girl, organised by UNICEF and Plan International. Here at Ford UK we welcomed two young women to take over mine and Usha Raghavachari’s roles at the Dunton Essex HQ and the London Human Centred Design Lab. I had the pleasure of hosting Nataly, at Dunton, we really enjoyed spending time with her, she brought a fresh perspective to our increasingly important digital offering and in each of our sessions she gave us something to different to consider.”

On the partnership, Usha Raghavachari, European Human Centred Design director, added: “Nicole was an inspiration, and took to the role so naturally. We loved having her with us and she really grasped why the customer is so integral to our design process. With her humble and calm confidence I can tell Nicole’s going to be a wonderful leader one day.”

Rose Caldwell, CEO at Plan International UK, said: “Seeing Nataly and Nicole take over from Lisa and Usha is an inspiring celebration of the incredible potential of girls. The talent, ideas and strength of girls has the power to change, but change isn’t coming fast enough, and girls tell us they have had enough of the empty rhetoric. Together with girls we can make International Day of the Girl more than just a day in the calendar, but a catalyst for powering a world where every girl can reach her potential.”

Notes to Editors