Dealerships need to attract and hire more women to remain relevant in a changing world. This was one of the key take-aways from a panel of women executives hosted by Cars.com on International Women’s Day.
The panel, hosted by Cars.com CMO Brooke Skinner Ricketts, featured four women leaders in automotive:
- Diana Kennedy, general manager of Toyota Marin in the Bay Area.
- Brenda Robinson, digital marketing and business development manager, Honda of Fife in Tacoma, Washington.
- Christy Roman, president of NOW Digital and co-founder of Women in Automotive.
- Joni Stuker, founder of Owner Connect and board member of Women in Automotive.
The wide-ranging discussion covered a lot of ground ranging from how women can grow their careers to how to handle pushback in a male-dominated industry. A recurring theme emerged: having more women in visible, important roles at auto dealerships is an essential growth tactic not just for women but for the industry as a whole at a time whenwomen account for nearly half of all new car purchases.
“The Market Is Evolving”
Diana Kennedy said, “Dealerships need to staff themselves to match how the market is evolving. Women are increasingly the ones making the decisions about buying a car. Women are walking into the dealership by themselves, and they’re going to do business with dealerships that make them feel comfortable. Having more women on your team to work with women customers is going to do that.”
Brenda Robinson added, “Dealers need to know that women have the knowledge to make informed decisions. Dealers are not in control anymore.”
But how can dealerships attract and keep more women in visible, executive roles? The panelists offered a number of suggestions, including:
1: Be more flexible to meet lifestyle needs
For example, provide a more flexible compensation structure for women who are juggling the demands of being a parent and working at a dealership.
2: Mentor and train
All the panelists noted how difficult it is for women to find strong mentoring and training to develop the skills they need to become more successful. Christy Roman noted this problem applies everywhere in the industry.
“The entire automotive industry has a training problem, period,” she said. “If you can learn how to mentor and train women, you can solve a bigger training problem.”
3: Confront sexist attitudes and behaviors
Joni Stuker said, “We are nowhere near where we need to be. A dealer recently told me, ‘We are not hiring anymore women’ because he was worried about lawsuits. I told him, ‘Let’s get real. The problem is you.’”
Brenda Robinson noted that sexist behavior in dealerships also comes down to how men interact with women. “Don’t make us feel uncomfortable,” she said. “How you treat women has an impact across generations.”
Diana Kennedy added, “Men need to be open to women. Let us surprise you. We will. We just need an opportunity.”
Women Are the Future
The panelists agreed that when women seize those opportunities and achieve visible positions of authority, other women will be more encouraged to look for careers in automotive.
“When you see someone like you holding an important role you want, it becomes easier for you to picture yourself in that role,” Brenda Robinson said.
Christy Roman noted that by mentoring women and becoming more flexible with issues such as compensation, automotive dealerships will also solve a talent shortage among millennials, who also want more flexibility – another example of how addressing the needs of women makes a dealership more relevant.
“Women are the only ones who can help the automotive industry if the industry is unwilling to help itself,” she said.
At Cars.com, we’re empowering women through actions such as the CARS Women in Leadership group, formed recently to inspire pride among women and build diversity in automotive. We’d like to lock arms with the industry. Contact us to learn more.