The numbers show that gender disparity is big in automotive. In 2016, multinational professional services firm EY (formerly Ernst & Young) chose to focus on the automotive industry in its gender disparity report because this sector showed “the most insufficient diversity of thought and experience,” at 38 percent, followed by oil and gas at 44 percent, and power & utilities at 52 percent. The report includes but is not exclusive to dealerships.
With big changes on the radar for dealerships, how important is it to eliminate or at least greatly reduce this disparity? Randy Miller, co-author of the EY report, believes that it’s vital.
“The speed of disruption in automotive is accelerating at a historic pace. Having the right talent in place to support this disruption is mission critical,” Miller says. “With a billion women joining the economy for the first time by 2020, advancing gender diversity can be a major competitive advantage to auto industry players.”
Other recent studies have shown that despite playing a leading role in the vast majority (80 percent) of car purchases,* women represent only a small portion of auto executives. When Mary Barra was named CEO of General Motors Company in 2014, it was the first time a woman became CEO of a major global automaker. And among the 50 largest publicly held auto company suppliers in North America, EY found that less than 10 percent of business leaders are women.
What Women at Dealerships Have to Say
Overall, women who work at dealerships do seem to encounter some differences in the way they’re treated compared to men, but that hasn’t stopped them from having a positive, good experience.
Amy Bannor, the brains behind the hugely popular social media platform Just a Girl Selling Cars, knew that sales was her calling and was drawn to car sales specifically because it was both lucrative and challenging. Any unequal treatment she encountered due to her gender just made her more determined to succeed.
“I do believe I’ve had to prove myself before promotion while some men around me were promoted on potential,” Bannor says. “This hasn’t been a negative for me because it has made me determined; however, that environment does wear some women down.”
Attending the Women in Automotive conference and meeting “like-minded, career-driven, intelligent, amazing women” was a game-changer for Bannor. One major benefit was finding female mentors.
“Whether in the industry or not, go do two things: 1) find someone you can mentor, and 2) find someone to mentor you,” Bannor recommends to women. “Knowledge is more powerful when shared.”
Bannor now runs her own company, 3A Productions, helping dealerships, small businesses, and individuals succeed with social media.
Beth Lestinsky, Internet Director at Yates Buick GMC, says that regardless of title and credentials, respect is less freely given to women than to men in automotive. But she has found support through connecting with other women.
“For the most part, with almost every other woman in this industry that I’ve ever come in contact with – whether vendor, another female manager, or a female employee – there is a common thread,” Lestinsky says. “We all know the challenges, and across the board we encourage each other.”
For women who are considering entering the industry, Lestinsky has some advice: “Do it! It is the best decision I have ever made. We need more women in this industry.”
Frankie Petty, Sync Specialist at Gary Crossley Ford, says that women – and men, for that matter – may need “a tough skin” to make it in the car business, but beyond that it’s performance that matters.
“It’s never been like ‘a man needs to have this job,’ and only once have I heard from a customer, ‘I want to talk to a man about my car,’” Petty says. “It’s not about men versus women. It’s about who knows what and who can handle what better.”
We want to hear from our readers: Do you see evidence of gender disparity? Is your dealership actively seeking to hire women?
*Source: 2014 Frost & Sullivan analysis