After a decade of progress of women gradually emerging as an important and recognized segment of contemporary automotive business, it is frustrating to see statistics from an NADA Workforce Study stating that only 8 percent of women occupy key positions in our national automotive dealerships. This study also reports that women still work in positions of 91 percent office and administrative support, with only 18.5 percent total in the dealerships.
These are disappointing statistics, especially considering the extensive efforts and achievements by female professionals in key positions, and such factors as women being recognized as the decision makers in purchasing automobiles, and their extensive influence in most levels of business and personal decisions. Then, just why do these statistics exist?
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No Clear Career Path — The vast majority of dealerships have little structured management selection process nor genuine incentives in place for soliciting female executive material, other than the limited opportunities of promoting from within. Interested women applying to positions in these organizations are generally relegated to sales positions, or internal operations, and even office positions without achieving or even being offered executive management advancement.
Lack of mentoring — There are seldom programs in place in most dealerships that provide the vital, structured educational process necessary for advancement; what does exist tends to focus on partial training for whatever position is open to the newly entering employee. Thus, the training becomes specific and limited, without adequate training for moving to the next level. The expensive and tragic result? Frequent turnover is one of the results of programs without incentive and future.
Formal Training Is Needed
Fortunately, there are viable educational programs and training resources available for women with goals of becoming administrators in the automotive industry. Here are several, with quoted goals and statements from each:
NADA/ATD Academy (www.nada.org/academy) — Their motto: Preparing tomorrow’s dealership leaders today. Academy programs are for current and future operators of automotive and truck dealerships. These programs feature the latest in industry trends and developments while also being deeply rooted in the fundamentals needed to operate a successful and profitable automotive business. Academy instructors are among the “who’s who” in the industry, recognized for their subject matter expertise.
Program categories include:
NADA Academy — Offers educational sessions and practical applications.
The NADA, ATD, and Academy Plus are year-long programs that include six intensive, instructor-led class weeks at NADA Headquarters.
NCM Institute (www.ncmassociates.com/NCM/general-managment) — NCM courses allow students to master dealership financial management studies and the opportunity to learn proven variable and fixed operations processes and management best practices.
Women in Automotive’s Women-Powered University for Mentoring - 20 groups (www. womeninautomotive.com/womenpowered/) -- The WIA’s Mission: “To assist in the development of women leaders and provide resources that help achieve work and life balance.”
Northwood University (www.northwood.edu/academics/programs/automotive-marketing-and-management.aspx) — Automotive marketing and Management for NU has the unique reputation of having students employed before they graduate. The employment rate for 2012 graduates was more than 95 percent in the field of automotive marketing and management.
So, logic tells us that pursuing these educational opportunities with dedication by bringing more executive women into the industry will positively change directions and increase not only enjoyment and longevity by all involved, but increase naturally resulting profitability and future expansions as well. This is aptly stated with implications by former Washington Post Editor Libby Copeland in Slate:
“When automakers fail now, it’s much more subtle, a matter of the men who predominate in most companies failing to anticipate the needs of female consumers.” (For some indication of who’s designing cars, consider that just 5 percent of American automotive engineers who belong to the engineering organization SAE International are women.)
The facts and statistics — and opportunities — are before us. This is about much more than fair and equitable hiring practices. We must realize that this is not an issue that we will place on the top of our file cabinet to review later. It just won’t get approached that way. Let’s simply put aside any qualms about executive placement of women and actually examine these educational opportunities. We need these professionals to thrive, explore new and exciting ventures and prosper.