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Kathy Gilbert

Kathy Gilbert Director of Sales & Business Development

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Women in the Dealer Workforce: Where We Are & Where We Can Go

Last week, I had the joy of attending the third Annual Women in Automotive Conference in Orlando, Florida. While there, I shared some research that CDK Global recently published. As women continue to graduate and enter the workforce at increasing rates, we still see them in only 18.6 percent of positions in dealerships. So, we set out to uncover the underlying reasons for the disparity. CDK Global conducted a study and a roundtable survey to better understand the overall experiences of women leaders working in the automotive retail industry.

It’s no secret that women make up a small portion of the dealer workforce and turnover among women is high. By not attracting and retaining women in the workforce, dealers are potentially missing out on huge sales opportunities.  How can dealers attract women to the industry? What motivates women to stay in the industry, and how have they found success?

Here are four key findings and steps for dealers to attract, retain and develop women to help drive sales.

Enticing New Hires

Many women in dealerships admit to entering the industry by accident and/or starting in entry-level positions with little or no auto experience or knowledge. However, the tides are changing. In fact, close to 20 percent more women were hired in intermediate and executive positions than ten years ago. While this is encouraging, dealers need to ensure that they are looking for talent in new places, encouraging women to come on board and offering new opportunities.

Increasing Retention

Keeping women excited and motivated in the workforce is crucial to supporting gender equality in the workplace and furthering dealer excellence. Feedback from women in the industry pointed to three things that support long-term retention:

  1. A supportive workplace culture that values diversity and inclusion that is modeled by leadership
  2. Recognizing the need for and adopting a more flexible schedule
  3. Mentoring and support for professional and personal growth

If dealers focus on implementing these three policies, they can better retain their women leaders — and create a stronger overall culture.

Recognizing Leadership

According to the CDK survey, career promotion for women appeared to be stagnant, with more than half (55 percent) remaining in their current position for six or more years. And, 53 percent of survey respondents surveyed reported that promoting women in the dealer workforce is generally not a focus area for their dealership. With this in mind, dealers should consider developing strategic career paths as a way to engage, incentivize and recognize women in leadership.

Relationships Matter

Women tend to lean into relationship marketing over product much more than men, and this is evident in the auto industry. Leaders indicated that the retail environment should be not just a transaction, but a relational transaction. And with women influencing 85 percent of consumer purchases, this could be a distinction worth noting. “Putting the customer first” emerged as a perceived key differentiator between women and their male counterparts. Leaning into this strength will not only allow women in the dealership to feel more valued, but it will also benefit the customer.

Overall, it was encouraging to see that many felt the industry is moving in the right direction. However, there’s more work to be done. As automotive retail continues to evolve, opportunities for a more diverse workforce will follow.  The dealers who embrace this will be better equipped to address their customers today and tomorrow. 

Joe Henry

Kathy, as a former dealership manager who wanted a good mix of sales staff on the floor, the women who were already dealership experienced seem to endure better. And when your HR or recruiter is looking at a resume database that flags dealership experienced personnel, it makes it much easier. 

Kathy Gilbert

Thanks for your input Joe!

R. J. James

Excellent advise for hiring and retaining woman.  The three points for Increasing Retention would apply to all new hires, because Coaching (Mentoring and Supporting Professional/Personal Development) is a challenge for many dealership managers.

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