Diversity in the Motorcycle Industry


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Paper written by owner of Guilty Custom addressing the motorcycle industry and lack of diversity and women in the market place. Is not addressing riders but management and company level.

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Diversity in the Motorcycle Industry

  1. 1. Carl Hanlon Final Term Multi-cultural Organization: Gender and Diversity Issues at Work Final Term Paper Brandman University Managing Cultural Differences Professor Rafael Hernandez Submitted by: Carl (Cj) Hanlon Student #1354534
  2. 2. Carl Hanlon Final Term Multi-cultural Organization: Gender and Diversity Issues at Work Question: “What do you foresee are the greatest challenges related to multiculturalism and diversity in your intended profession or career, and how do you intend to deal with them?” The Merriam-Webster dictionary states “diversity” as “the condition of being diverse: variety; especially: the inclusion of diverse people (as people of different races or cultures) in a group or organization”. When one thinks of the term "multiculturalism” however, we are referring to the changing age, sex, ethnicity, physical ability, race, and sexual orientation of people across all types and places of work in the United States. Thus I tend to view the “multicultural” workforce as a descriptive term that, correctly or not, has largely supplanted the term "diversity" in describing the increasing heterogeneity of the workplace. Roosevelt Thomas, founding president of the American Institute for Managing Diversity, qualified diversity as a "comprehensive managerial process for developing an environment that works for all employees." Likewise the Portable MBA Desk Reference ended its definition of "diversity" in a similar manner. "The challenge posed by diversity, then, is to accommodate different groups by addressing their lifestyles, values, work style, and family needs without compromising the goals and operations of the organization." And Joan Crockett, vice president for human resources at Allstate Insurance Co., viewed a diverse workforce as being about "unlocking the potential for excellence among all workers." Allstate's diversity vision statement sums up this belief: "Diversity is Allstate's strategy for
  3. 3. Carl Hanlon Final Term Multi-cultural Organization: Gender and Diversity Issues at Work leveraging differences in order to create a competitive advantage." Diversity, (while including race and gender) also encompasses age, ethnicity, physical ability, and sexual orientation. Additionally, secondary factors such as education, geographic location, income, marital status, military experience, parental status, religious preference, and work experience also reflect the elements of a diverse or multicultural workforce. One point to identify is that diversity within certain groups is commonly confused with affirmative action. However one must remember that the most striking difference between the two social schemes is that “affirmative action is initiated by government regulation and legislation”, whereas “diversity is voluntary”. Why then are so many companies ‘voluntarily’ engaging in diversity efforts? Because there is a very strong business case for those businesses’ to support and pursue this work—the changing marketplace that consumes their product. Example: Women consumers account for 85% of all consumer purchases including everything from autos to health care. According to Road & Travel Magazine, today’s women make up more than 50% of the automotive market, spending an estimated $80 billion a year on new- car sales, a number industry analysts expect to see rise to 60% in just a few short years. Today, people of color in the U.S. amount to over 100 million people (about one third of the population), and by 2050, their numbers will more than double, growing to almost
  4. 4. Carl Hanlon Final Term Multi-cultural Organization: Gender and Diversity Issues at Work 220 million (over 50 percent of the population). People of color already constitute a majority of the population in California, Florida, New Mexico, Hawaii, and Texas. The political and social implications of an increasingly diverse population and nation are vast and the communities of color have a mounting influence on society and politics. The largest and most daunting challenge before the motorcycle industry however is actually identifying the need for diversity! The industry is one of the least diverse segments of society today and obstinately remains so based upon a deeply engrained, promoted and historic bias, which pits a “Us” versus’ “Them” mentality. (NOTE: I am not referring here to the lack of “diversity of people riding motorcycles”, i.e. Women, Blacks, Hispanics, Asian, non-Hispanic Whites, etc but rather to the internal workings of the V-twin industry as a whole). Not only is diversity needed through out the motorcycle industry, it is simply the right thing to do. It behooves industry leaders and individuals to keep up with the rapidly changing demographics of the U.S. if the motorcycle industry is to remain viable, thriving and relevant. Because of the lack of attention to this issue, the motorcycle industry has missed a viable, rapidly growing and diverse market despite economic factors that should have been favorable to the industry, such as high gas prices and growing concerns about the environment. What would the motorcycle industry look like if it were able to effectively engage women and people of color and leverage their substantial support and talents? These new participants would surely translate into more political prowess, richer partnerships
  5. 5. Carl Hanlon Final Term Multi-cultural Organization: Gender and Diversity Issues at Work and more financial robustness for an industry that has a history of substantial ebbs and flows brought on by economic factors and buyer whims and preferences. In other words, the industry would be substantially more successful and influential than it ever has been by moving towards a more “inclusive” and “diverse” makeup. Let’s start with gender. The motorcycle industry is one of the last bastions of male dominance. While over 50% of all car purchases are made by women, only 23% of women ride motorcycles, or 5.7 million our of 25 million riders. The white, male majority labor pool has historically dominated the American workforce, and especially the motorcycle industry. For a variety of complex social and economic reasons, women did not begin making inroads into the mainstream motorcycle industry until the mid-late 1990s—(in comparison Carly Fiorina had already risen to the very top as CEO of Hewlett-Packard from 1999 to 2005, computers being also strongly male dominated). Still, in most cases minorities (ie. women in this case) are still viewed as second layer castings and/or “bait” to attract the “real” target consumer-i.e. males, and few things are proactively done from the major players to embrace and accommodate them. While on a grass roots level, a number of dealerships, magazines, organizations, associations and manufactures are taking steps to “include” or address the woman consumer, there is still a lack of “leading by example” from the major motorcycle companies themselves. Which is a lost opportunity for these companies. If the motorcycle companies were to study more in-depth the habits and the “reach” of the women consumers influence, they would quickly see that women not only take the lead
  6. 6. Carl Hanlon Final Term Multi-cultural Organization: Gender and Diversity Issues at Work in the decision of consumables directly, (85% of ALL brand purchases are made by women), but are having an indirect influence on the motorcycles industries direct target market, (ie. male) in the decision on 1) whether to even purchase a motorcycle, and 2) what type (cruiser, touring, off-road, dual sport, sports, etc) or brand (Honda, BMW, Harley Davidson, Yamaha, etc) of motorcycle to purchase. Yes, while males today make most motorcycle purchases predominantly, the industry fails to recognize the ‘veto’ power of the female in the purchase decision. For every man that owns a motorcycle there are possibly ten that want one and have not purchased because of strong opposition from the women in their lives. The motorcycle industry does nothing to directly market to these women’s objections, whether that is safety concerns or image perceptions. Browse through any motorcycle magazine, the industry still uses ‘women’ as either eye candy or in a provocative poses. Practices that have not been seen in car advertising (TV, Websites or Print) for decades. In the fear of losing its existing male market share, the motorcycle industry is stuck between being current and relevant and fixated on the mindset of “yesterday” that by nature isolates them from the current consumers. Basically a vicious struggle between “Past Habits” verses “Present Opportunities”. Despite all of this, some women are bucking the stereotype and are not content to ride on the back of a man’s motorcycle, but becoming riders themselves. And yet, motorcycle manufactures are still missing a substantial opportunity to sell to women directly as they continue to manufacture motorcycles built for the “male frame” and
  7. 7. Carl Hanlon Final Term Multi-cultural Organization: Gender and Diversity Issues at Work thus forcing the female (and smaller consumers) to seek out models that best suit their size and riding preferences. (Granted H-D did attempt to focus on the younger market by purchasing the Buell motorcycle line- however their efforts were misdirected as it was just a repackaged “V-Twin” model on a sport frame and still was branded as a Harley. Which both the younger market didn’t understand or like and women didn’t want). For clarification, while H-D’s full size and heavier seat height is lower than their competitors, (BMW, Honda, Suzuki) there is a very minute percentage of women riders who do ride these fuller size motorcycles. However there numbers are not discernable. Thus despite many barriers, women, as a percentage of the motorcycle industry labor force and consumer market, continue to grow, although slowly and sporadically. According to Motorcycle Industry Council in 2009, female ownership of motorcycles crossed the 10-percent mark, increasing from 9.6 percent in 2003 up to 12.3 percent in 2008”. That is 2.7% growth over a 5-year period. Compare these to the number of women who attend Winston Cup races each year: 40% of the 6.6 million attendees! Or the 47.2 % of major league soccer fans: 46.5% of MLB fans, 43.2% of NFL fans, 40.8% of fans at NHL games or 37% of NBA fan’s who are women! Laurie Dougherty, one of the editors of The Changing Nature of Work, noted that the image of the American workforce is rapidly changing from essentially a white male image, as exemplified by the "man in the gray flannel suit" and the hard-hat construction worker, to one of men and women of all nationalities and races—in essence, a change from a homogenous image to one much more diverse or multicultural.
  8. 8. Carl Hanlon Final Term Multi-cultural Organization: Gender and Diversity Issues at Work All of the diverse characteristics of a multicultural workforce can be used to a strategic advantage for the motorcycle companies that have the willingness and creativity to make use of them. According to "African Americans Revealed" - a study of more than 80,000 African-American consumers over 18-month span broken down into several individual research reports African-American buying power increased more than 55% during the same period to $913 billion. By the year 2013 black buying power will reach $1.2 trillion dollars, a whopping 35% increase versus 2008, according to BET. Hispanics spent over $900 billion as a consumer group in 2009 and this buying power is projected to surpass the $1 trillion mark by the end of 2010. Asian American buying power was estimated at $397 billion for 2005, an increase of 240.4 percent since 1990. It's forecast to reach $579 billion nationwide by 2011. As Thomas McInerney, the president of Aetna Retirement Services and the companies Diversity Steward said in an interview with DiversityInc.com, “Those companies that are able to tap into this growth now, with the right products and services as well as the work force expertise to serve these markets, are looking at an unbelievable business opportunity," The rise in the spending power of these minority groups has increased employment opportunities for minorities by ironically creating positive stereotyping, or what Frederick R. Lynch, author of The Diversity Machine, called "identity politics." According to Lynch, companies spend a great deal of money and marketing energy on the idea
  9. 9. Carl Hanlon Final Term Multi-cultural Organization: Gender and Diversity Issues at Work that Mexican Americans can best sell products and services to other Mexican Americans and that African Americans can best sell products and services to other African Americans. Workforce editor Gillian Flynn concurred, "These companies have a stake in the belief that people of a certain race or gender think similarly, and they favor diversity programs that support that belief." The big “elephant in the room” however that the motorcycle industry must face head- on is: “Will diversity make good business sense for us?” In other industries it evidently does! The “Fortune Magazine’s Top 50 best companies for Blacks, Hispanics and Asians” list, cites Advantica, the parent company of Denny's, as No. 2 on the list, with BankAmerica, Fannie Mae and Marriott International rounding out the top-five best companies for Blacks, Hispanics and Asians. At No. 1, Pacific Enterprises in Los Angeles works hard at maintaining a workforce that reflects the urban area it serves. "We have a smorgasbord of customers and a smorgasbord of employees," says company treasurer Dennis Arriola, who is Hispanic. "The best salespeople are the ones most like the customers they serve." At the typical "best" company, minorities account for 11.7 percent of the board, 7.6 percent of corporate officers, 13.9 percent of officials and managers, 7.2 percent of the 25 highest-paid employees, 24.9 percent of the total workforce, and 23.8 percent of new hires. Charity donations to programs that primarily benefit minorities average 35.3 percent, and 4.4 percent of purchasing is done with minority suppliers. Imagine what could happen if the motorcycle industry would more aggressively work on inclusion strategies. One of the benefits outside of greater sales to these growing
  10. 10. Carl Hanlon Final Term Multi-cultural Organization: Gender and Diversity Issues at Work demographic groups would be their support and passion. For example it is documented that people of color support specific industry issues of interest to them at a higher level than their white counterparts. So, how does an industry initiate a change to embrace diversity within itself? If the motorcycle industry is to seriously work on the lack of diversity, the industry leaders will need to effectively tackle the cultural mindset of itself and those that participate. While industry leaders such as Harley Davidson, Honda, Triumph and Victory have made efforts to capture the attention of these communities, (mainly focusing on the clothing arena and to a lesser extend actual vehicles) it is seen as either “lukewarm”, “half hearted” or at least an after thought. Nothing within the present scope of advertising, initiatives to dealers, motorcycles themselves or even the refocus of the use of women as anything other than “male magnets” validates a serious effort towards inclusion. Smaller independent companies will have to address their own efforts first hand and the industry as a whole will have to put forth nothing short of a comprehensive strategy that will sufficiently address the diversity crisis and create sustainable and lasting change, as well as lay a road map for others to follow. Many different elements would be necessary to create a climate of inclusion and to incorporate the genuine value for diversity. From my own unique perspective from within the industry “circle” there are four elements I believe would strengthen the diversity efforts. They are; increased awareness of the need (ie. communication),
  11. 11. Carl Hanlon Final Term Multi-cultural Organization: Gender and Diversity Issues at Work targeted minority initiatives by industry leaders, training, and mentoring. Communications about the value of inclusion and diversity that come from the top of an industry or company are critical in the success of a diversity initiative. While this communication is frequently written, the use of technology can quickly show the companies efforts towards diversity. Such is the case with Allstate Insurance who employs teleconferencing to communicate multicultural values across the country. Participating in industry round tables or panels (where I have been a panelist in past) also helps shed light to the issues facing the industry (both to internal participants and consumers) and shows the need for such diversity to the masses. Which in time becomes acceptance. Targeted minority initiatives by industry leaders, in a direct manner, shows the industries interest in that targeted demographic. However it also shows to the “general public” that this companies interest is real and part of their business strategy and life. Training engages industry leaders, management and employees in the process of dealing with multicultural conflicts, needs, and industry dynamics. While training may operate at high levels within the industry many companies are involving employees at all levels of the company in formulating policies and guidelines. Mentoring programs directly connect multicultural employees with traditional employees across racial and gender lines. IBM, for instance, uses a formal mentoring program while Corning employs a more informal "coaching" program.
  12. 12. Carl Hanlon Final Term Multi-cultural Organization: Gender and Diversity Issues at Work True change in any industry, and specifically the motorcycle industry, begins at the top tier of manufacturing food chain (ie. Harley Davidson, BMW, Honda, Victory, Yamaha, etc) and also within it’s rank and file (small builders, manufacturers and suppliers). Diversity efforts cannot succeed without long-term commitment from its leaders and forward-thinking individuals who are seen as “influencers” within the industry. Everything the diversity program does must be linked to business and industry success; diversity strategies must be part of "the businesses purpose and vision." My own strategy in addressing this issue in my industry is pretty straightforward. Which is to speak on these disparities at seminars that I participate in annually, as well as blog about it on website as well as write articles which are published in national publications. Also have discussions with fellow builders and consumers when at events. In addition, while I do use female models in my clothing line I do refrain from putting them in compromising situations (shirtless, scantly clothed, etc). This movement hast to start someplace, so why not with a small shop like Guilty Customs!