Kathy Gilbert, Senior Director, Minority Dealer and Women Retail for CDK Global 

2021 Honoree

Senior Director, Minority Dealer and Women Retail
CDK Global

What is the proudest accomplishment of your career thus far?  

The proudest moment in my career of more than 27 years is being an advocate for my clients, particularly minority and women automotive dealers. I have helped empower women in automotive with career development, education and success strategies. I also take great pride in mentoring and coaching women in our industry. I have had a coach who has provided me with better ways to support my customers, so I know very well how important a mentor can be in someone’s career.  

In addition, I found great pride in building and leading a team of customer success managers and advocates responsible for helping our customers to achieve their desired business results. The greatest joy was developing the strategy, business processes and key metrics/reporting to demonstrate growing customer loyalty, reduced churn and an overall great experience for our customers.  

I am also one of the founding board members of Women in Automotive, where I work with other female industry leaders. Developing and implementing the first Women in Automotive (WIA) conference was a defining moment for me because we were able to support the industry in recruiting, retaining and developing female employees and leaders.  


What is your best advice to other women who want to excel in the automotive industry?   

Building lasting relationships and a strong professional network of female leaders is important for women to navigate and excel in automotive.   

It is also important to be adaptable in this industry. Even when you believe you’re prepared, the game can change at any moment, so you need to be ready to pivot. Preparation is key to making a right decision for you. If you’re prepared when opportunities present themselves, you can select the right one for you and let go of the ones that don’t align.   

As women in this industry, we need to follow our own path and can’t be afraid of taking a chance for great rewards. The role of women in automotive is growing and we are continuing to make strides.  


What are some of the ways you have seen the industry support women?   

Dealerships have been making a concerted effort to address the inequality of women in the automotive industry, both in leadership and other roles. I have seen more change occur in the last five years compared with the previous 15 years. Studies have shown that when more women are in leadership roles, their decisions drive stronger sales. This has resulted in the industry changing how they recruit, promote, retain and compensate women. Progressive dealers have also become more flexible in offering pay plans and schedules based on what works for female employees.   

Dealers are also increasing marketing to women and communities of color. If you’re not positioning messaging to attract the clientele you are looking at, you’re not going to be successful. Organizations must recognize that the traditional family is changing and dealers need to make necessary adjustments in order to truly leverage their new, diverse work force. There is tremendous opportunity in the automotive industry — from manufacturing, design, ownership, marketing and sales. Women shouldn’t let the old perception of the industry scare them away.  


What is one thing the industry could do better/differently to support women?  

It is important for our industry to be representative of the customers we serve. This starts with understanding diversity in the talent acquisition space and extends to knowing what it takes to grow the business with a diverse workforce.  

Women represent over 50% of the population and we need equality across the board. Although it will take work and time to achieve these demographics in our industry, I am dedicated to helping increase the representation of minority and women dealers.