"Ultimately we've got a lot of customers who walk through the door who know more about the product than we do. Trying to hoodwink them with some kind of mystical process is not going to do us any favors in the long run." – Celia Pronto
Before Mary Barra made headlines as the first female CEO in the automotive industry, Celia Pronto became the first woman to join the board at Ford Retail, UK, the biggest Ford owned dealership in the world. Apart from the incessant conversations around football, Pronto rarely noticed her position as the only woman, but for her male colleagues it was a welcome change:
"I certainly never felt like I was the only woman, however from the feedback I have received, the dynamic and chemistry of the board and board meetings has changed since the inclusion of female representation – and the feedback is that this change has been for the positive.
Interestingly, feedback from female colleagues within the business has been extremely positive, with statements along the lines of it being really positive to see strong female leaders in such a visible, influential senior position in the organisation; and since I joined the board we have seen a subsequent growth in female representation among our leadership team, which is the next level of management down from the board, from 9% to 23%."
Pronto's influence goes beyond altering the dynamic in the boardroom; When she joined in 2012 as Marketing & E-Commerce Director, Pronto was tasked with balancing Ford's UK strategy with her own marketing and online retail strategy for Ford Retail. After 14 years in digital marketing, including 7 in multi-channel marketing, Pronto was not intimidated by the task. She knew her main challenge was to make sure they didn't get ahead of themselves as they re-evaluated their online strategy and re-articulated their positioning.
"My sincere hope is that we get to a point where gender is no longer an issue even discussed, because it is simply the best person for the job who gets appointed."
How do you make retail, digital and e-commerce work together to ultimately get the best value for your business?
Celia sat down with Womenalia to discuss the basics of incorporating e-commerce into your business. She is very clear on one thing: the importance of simplifying the process for customers.
"Our insight is that we've got to make it easy for customers. Which sounds incredibly simple, and it's a very simple statement to make but actually, in a business of our complexity, if we can deliver it, it's incredibly compelling and very differentiating. So, for us, what we're galvanizing our entire business behind is 'how do we make it easy?' and that's looking at our process, our systems, our people, our structures, our technology."