It is no secret that the automotive industry has historically been dominated by the male gender. The NADA Work Force Study of 2015 stated that women make up 47% of the US Labor Force. However, only 23.6% of those women are employed in the automotive industry. Of that 23.6%, only 8% were in key leadership roles, and the other 91% held positions in either administrative or clerical roles.
Over the last several decades, there has been little change in these numbers. I find these statistics quite alarming and worth further investigating.
So why are we not recruiting, hiring and marketing to more women? Is it the stereotype that women are emotional and cannot make clear decisions? Do employers feel that women are incapable of conducting business on a day-to-day basis, in a professional and productive manner? Do females come across as weak and inferior to men?
Capitalize on the Differences Between Men and Women
It concerns me that people are quick to point out the differences between men and women in a negative manner. Instead, we should capitalize on these differences and use them to our advantage. The NADA study stated that women influence 85% of the automotive buying decisions. In addition, 65% schedule the service work for their household. Most importantly, 47% of women prefer to buy from other women.
Their reasoning included several traits they felt women possessed that men did not: respect, honesty, compassion and better listening skills. At the time of that study it was noted that only 1% of customers were satisfied with the car buying experience. In order to diversify the workplace, increase profit margins, and change the buying experience, we must start with our own perceptions. Imagine the increase for your business with more deals closed, higher customer survey scores and a positive, productive work environment.
How do we make the industry more attractive to women?
It is imperative that we start encouraging more women to enter the automotive industry. Although proven to be a challenge so far, it is possible. In recent years women have been making their voices heard and proving themselves worthy of the same respect as their male counterparts. In January of 2014, Mary Barra became the first woman to hold a CEO position at a major manufacturer and started with the company in 1980. She initially worked for 5 years as a Co-op student for Pontiac. It took 34 years and several positions to finally reach the top level.
In October 2018, Deloitte released a study called “Women at the Wheel.” It stated that 65% of women were dissatisfied with the unattractive work environment. This included unwanted sexual advances and feeling unsafe at work. The other issue facing 59% of the women polled was a disparity between the balance of work and life. The long hours and commute times were stretching them thin and taking away quality time from themselves, their families and their friends. The void of flexible schedules accounted for another 46% that deterred women from taking a job at a dealership. The lack of advancement opportunities was noted by 39% of those polled. Obviously, the changes needed are small but significant.
Where and How Do You Hire Women?
The talent level and profit potential of adding women in automotive are being extremely overlooked. So let’s talk recruiting – how and where do you hire great female employees? Start within your organization and promote. Go to the 91% of the women currently working in automotive in administrative or clerical roles. They already know the business and culture of your dealership.
Maybe your receptionist is a better fit for your BDC. It’s entirely possible your title clerk would make a great salesperson. Warranty clerks are a wealth of knowledge in regards to the manufacture coverage, so consider promoting them to finance managers. You can also find incredible talent in similar service industries; restaurant servers, bank reps, and real estate agents already focus on serving customers to close a sale. The bottom line is there are people around you every day that have been overlooked. I encourage you to look for the positive sides to promoting and hiring more women.
Let’s Break Down the Stereotypes
Surveys have shown customers are more trusting of a female in the finance office than a man. Does that mean a guy cannot be empathetic or trustworthy? No! I have seen both men and women perform at top levels, and I have also seen others become victims of the gender labels. Eleven years ago when I started in the Automotive Finance Industry, I made it my mission to break down these stereotypes. The secret to my success is that I don’t see myself as any different than the gentlemen that I go head-to-head with every day.
At the end of the month we are all measured by the same standard of performance. The role of the F&I Manager is the same, no matter whether you wear a skirt and heels or a suit and tie. Protect the dealer, deliver the vehicle, present the options and maximize profit.
I challenge you to break down the stereotype. Change your perception. Treat each other with respect without seeing gender. Continue to perform at the highest level possible despite judgment from customers and co-workers. Bridge the Gap so we can all achieve greater success and change this industry.