By Laurie Halter, Founder, Charisma! Communications
Recently I had the opportunity to sit down with a dynamic group of women in the automotive industry and prepare our session on hiring, retaining, and nurturing female leaders for this year’s Digital Dealer Virtual Conference (October 6 & 7, 2020). It quickly became apparent that each woman in the “virtual” room understood that getting more females involved in automotive is crucial. But it wasn’t until Jacci Grillo of Kelley Blue Book and April Simmons of Horne Auto Group reached out to females across the automotive landscape, both on the dealer and vendor side, that I realized WHY having female leaders is crucial to the health of our industry.
It all came down to this question, “If I could pick one thing to change in our industry, it would be…” The simple answer? See more females in leadership roles!
According to ESI Trends, only 5% of GMs are female, and though there has been a ton of focus on this issue, we have hardly made a dent in the numbers. As an industry, we still stand at only 20% of dealership staff being female, and the majority of these females are serving in traditional office roles. It is time for us to change this dynamic for the overall health of our industry.
Many of the executives I speak with truly do want to change these numbers but don’t know how to accomplish that. Here is some of the feedback received from surveying women working across the automotive sector about what we can do to make the industry more female-friendly overall.
Question: What are some ways to make females feel valued?
The top answers to this question are:
- Make me a part of collaborations and meetings.
- Provide training and development opportunities for success.
- Listen and acknowledge my contributions
- Give me valuable feedback and open communication.
Based on the above answers, managers should be providing training and development opportunities as a path forward for the female rock stars in your organization. What about creating a female mentor program or even better, a multi-day female-focused training on ways to successfully sell on the showroom floor? The women in this industry are dying to be included at the table – don’t just invite them, listen to what they have to say.
Question: If I could pick one benefit it would be:
- Networking with other women for leadership opportunities
- Access to coaching and development training
When this question was asked, flexibility was the top answer by far. The women in your organizations are multi-faceted; they are wives, mothers, daughters, career-driven females, carpooling moms, dog mamas – and flexibility is paramount. More than one female we spoke with said they would be happy to come back and work later hours if they could break for their son or daughter’s sporting events or appointments.
Give your female employees the flexibility they need, and they will give you their all.
Question: Would you recommend a career in auto to other females you know?
- I would be hesitant, it’s a tough environment
- Maybe, but they would need a thick skin
- Yes, but only if they have thick skin and are self-motivated by nature
- She would need to be a scrapper
These answers are heartbreaking to me, only if she has thick skin and is a scrapper? I’m hoping as we move forward leadership on both the vendor and dealer side will find ways to make this industry open to all types of employees, both the scrappy ones as well as the empathetic ones. It takes more than one type of car buyer to purchase a vehicle, let’s cut out the “one size fits all” staff member who sells it to them.
There is no reason women can’t flourish and thrive right alongside the health of your dealership or company. Provide adequate training and development, show female leaders in top positions, and give all of your employees the flexibility needed for a multi-faceted life, and you’ll have a winning combination that helps not only bring more females into your group but more success to your store overall.
Register for an all-access pass at Digital Dealer Virtual to learn from a powerhouse female panel who will share the truth about what it takes to Hire, Retain, & Nurture Female Leaders on October 7 @ 12:55 PM ET.
About the Author
Laurie Halter is the owner of Charisma Communications, a boutique PR firm centered on the needs of the automotive industry.