Women in Automotive: What’s Changing?

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women-in-automotiveIt’s no surprise to you that the automotive industry is heavily dominated by men. In fact, only about 19% of sales people are women and only 5% hold GM positions. And while we know turnover is high in the automotive community nearing 70%, it increases to a staggering 88% for women.  So why should you care about this as a dealership, and what can you do to improve those statistics?

Firstly, according to WardsAuto, women make 85% of all household buying decisions. Think about all those times you tried selling a car to a man and he says he has to check with his wife first?  Wives and girlfriends play an integral role in financial decisions. Another staggering statistic: Women spend $200bn annually on cars and services.  

Let’s face it, walking into a dealership can be intimidating for anyone and I’ll venture to say that it’s even more pressure for a female shopper. Shoppers are looking for salespeople who are relatable and can empathize with them.  Your sales team should reflect the diversity of your customer base. If a woman walks into a sea of male sales people, they may feel overwhelmed or even intimidated. However, if there are women working the floor, it sends a message to the shopper that women are a part of your culture and it’s immediately disarming. 

We spoke with Susan Gubasta, President & CEO of Missasagua Toyota who says that in her experience, having more female representation in the industry allows dealerships to remove the barriers and preconceived notions about the experience they will receive at the dealership. According to Gubasta, “women provide a gentler, more collaborative approach that speaks to today’s shopper.”

The next reason why you should pay attention to creating a more diverse workplace is the bottom line benefit.  According to a recent report from McKinsey, gender diversity in management positions were 21% more likely to benefit from above average profits.  And companies with greater gender diversity reported they are twice as likely to have their leaders work together to create new solutions and opportunities, 1.5 times more likely to work across an organization’s silos and exhibit a growth culture, and 1.7 times more likely to have strong leadership.

Moving the needle takes a concerted effort and I’m guessing since you made it this far through the article, you’re motivated to make a change.  Below are six tips for hiring and retaining women at your dealership:

  1. Attract women to your dealership – make sure that you’re speaking to both men and women in your job postings.  Avoid using words like “he” in the description and adjectives like “active”, “competitive” and “dominate.”   Also, be sure you’re posting in nontraditional locations that women will be more apt to come across your job posting.Finally, highlight the women that currently work at your dealership on your website and on your social media pages. Women in the job market will at your dealership to to see if that’s a place they want to work.  If they see a diversity in the employee base they’re more likely to want to join your organization. I worked in tech for over 10 years. When I was on a job search I always went to the ‘About Us’ section of the website to see how many women were at the top of the organization.  If I saw that women held executive positions I was more confident that I too could find a path for growth path within the organization.
  2. Show a clear career path –  Both men and women benefit from knowing a clear way of advancement at your dealership. It’s important that you show them what steps are needed to become a manager.
  3. Provide training  – Again, this isn’t gender specific, everyone benefits from training. Taking the time to train your staff shows them that you care about their success and also sets an expectation for their performance.  This should be ongoing through their tenure and needs to adapt to their changing roles within your dealership.
  4. Mentorship – Women in particular would benefit from a mentor at the dealership to guide them through the challenges they may encounter either internally or with your shopper base. Providing this support will help them navigate the tough times and will aid in your retention of quality talent.
  5. Create work / balance schedules – Let’s face it, both men and women can benefit from a more balanced life. You’ll find few people who actually enjoy working bell to bell.  Make sure you’re offering competitive pay plans that don’t penalize employees with a more flexible schedule. Trust us, all of your employees will thank you.
  6. Shift your dealerships culture – Like it or not, you can’t run your dealership like an old boys club in today’s climate.  Not only may you encounter legal issues, but it does contribute to a hostile work environment.  Make it a priority to make your culture inclusive to all your employees.Not too long ago Automotive News surveyed 900 women at all levels and in all segments of the industry. The survey was titled Project XX, and investigated  four main areas: Feedback and promotion; harassment and safety; inclusion; and unconscious bias. The results of the survey showed that many women were asked inappropriate questions during the hiring process; they were expected to do more menial tasks regardless of title and they’re often excluded from social gatherings, not to mention being the target of unwanted sexual advances from colleagues, bosses and even customers.  When the study compared the auto industry against three other industries in the tech field (Silicon Valley, advertising and market research) they found the automotive industry to be the biggest offender.It’s important that in this day and age of “me too” you have a beat on the pulse of your dealership to ensure that employees have a safe space to come forward with any complaints and concerns and that your HR departments remedies the situation in sensitive manner without the fear of retaliation. 

How many women do you employ currently? How many more sales are you missing out on by not having women on the salesroom floor? Increasing the diversity of your dealership should be a top priority and expectations should be set for recruitment, hiring and retention of your women employees.  Your dealership should be a reflection of the market place and in order to address the needs of today’s shopper, this is one area that needs to be addressed.

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