Women In The Dealership: Overcoming The Industry Talent Challenge

By Alan Dodaro,
March 31, 2017

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As dealerships get ready to staff up for the busy summer season, one key component to keep in mind is the continued challenge retail automotive has experienced with attracting and retaining female talent. It’s been three years since General Motor’s Mary Barra became the first woman to serve as CEO of a major auto maker in 2014, but significant strides still need to be made to open up the industry and level the gender playing field.

A Well-Known Issue of Representation

The most recent NADA workforce study shows just how clear this challenge remains. In 2015, just 18.6% of dealerships team members were female. Women accounted for just 20% of new hires made across dealerships, and female turnover was 43%, compared to 39% of their male counterparts. This comes at a time when female head of households continue to rise, and where women comprise the majority of vehicle choices nationwide.

Looking At Your Automotive Job Descriptions

One factor preventing women from working at your dealership might be the first thing they see: your job description. Hireology’s Candice Crane, VP of Dealer Solutions, recently outlined this issue for Wards Auto. When it comes to dealership hires – especially in sales – dealers toss around terms like ninjas, rockstars and other terms that may only focus on an alpha male persona.

‘There’s a huge cultural misalignment in dealership hiring,’ said Crane. ‘Women don’t respond to these terms. Instead, they’re looking for teamwork, collaboration, career development, and empowerment.’

Crane wants dealers to re-think the language they’re using to attract new talent to the retail automotive industry. “Terms like ninja and rockstar don’t belong in job descriptions, they just represent a gender bias that could be potentially turning away half of the available talent pool.”

Work-Life Balance

The 50 – 60 hour work weeks expected for top retail automotive employees is a challenge for virtually everyone, but it hits women – who disproportionately handle childcare and home responsibilities. When dealers set the expectation for long hours, including during weekends, this may turn away many strong female sales leads who would otherwise be interested and successful in retail automotive. Beyond the challenge this poses for professional women, more and more millennial workers – both men and women – are turning away from retail automotive for the work-life balance. You can learn how to attract more women and millennials from our recent post on rethinking compensation plans.

Some dealers are recognizing this and making an effort to level the playing field across the retail automotive gender gap. Ron Wright, a dealer recently shared his team structure with Automotive News, “I have the privilege of being the general manager of a Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram dealership in Pearl City, Hawaii. Out of 15 sales people 7 of them are women. These women are among our top and most consistent performers. In fact, one woman in particular wins all of our annual and most of our monthly top sales contests. These women rock and I am very proud of them.”

Finding Support: Women-Run Dealerships and Customer Advocacy Groups

While the industry overall has an uphill battle to make retail automotive an attractive career destination for women, a number of those already in the industry are building support networks to advocate for this effort. Automotive Women’s Alliance Foundation is an industry non-profit that supports women in retail automotive. The foundation provides scholarships for interested students pursuing a career in the auto industry, as well as a number of resources for those already in leading dealership roles.  

Women Auto Know is another resource for drivers and potential dealership customers to get basic vehicle education, and learn about the consumer sales process for buying a new or used car. The site also contains helpful resources around basic vehicle maintenance and repairs, helping owners get support from other like-minded women.

The Talent Need

Dealerships have been struggling with hiring female professionals for years. While many dealerships have worked to overcome the perception of the showroom floor being male-dominated, a talent crunch that’s already impacting dealerships will make dealers think twice about potentially turning away 50% of the labor market. As Monster outlined, there is a growing need for automotive techs and fulfillment agents to provide customer service, and this need is accelerating. Technician roles are becoming more focused on telematics and technology instead of traditional mechanic work. Beyond this, fulfillment agents are starting to be adapted by forward-thinking dealerships.

These professionals are akin to Apple Geniuses, outlining vehicle technology, smartphone integration, and the overall vehicle experience. With female consumers having a hand in 85% of U.S. car purchases, this role would offers a great career opportunity for men and women alike.

While the industry continues to work on ways to showcase the professional opportunities retail automotive can offer women, there are tactics dealers can implement today to impact their perception. From setting a better work-life balance and reexamining job descriptions to make them appealing to everyone, small changes can go a long way to ensure all professionals, regardless of gender, are set up for success in retail automotive.


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About the Author

Alan is the content and product marketing manager, responsible for educating Hireology customers on new product features and platform best practices. He brings experience from previous startup and digital agency roles. Before beginning his career, Alan attended the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, with a major in advertising and a minor in library information science.

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