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Women in Dealership Management and Leadership

Traditionally, you will not find a woman in a sales management role at a dealership. You typically find a woman in finance management role. My time in this industry as an internet sales manager, BDC manager and digital marketing manager has given me a unique perspective on this male-dominated industry.

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The automotive industry has a history of mistreating women in management. They haven’t progressed their cultures as other industries have in the past 20 years by prioritizing and overcoming gender barriers. The “good ole boys club,” if you will, continues to this day. Many of us in the automotive industry feel unwelcome, undervalued, mistreated and underappreciated. We are the proverbial third wheel; the outsider. We are also grossly under paid in comparison to our male counterparts who we consistently outperform in our perspective sales markets.

Ironically, women continually rank among the top producers in the industry in spite of this. We are also scarce. Women account for about 7% of total dealership positions, but even lower for sales management. I don’t recall ever seeing that number having ever been calculated.

There are other obstacles that attribute to scaring away good female management talent such as the long hours. Most dealerships are unyielding on the old school showroom hours of over 12 hour days, mandatory weekends and holidays. This is a challenge for anyone but hits women the hardest, who, compared to their male counterparts, are handling the lion’s share of childcare and home responsibilities. This discourages some great female sales management talent from applying or staying long term. Some dealerships have evolved to better scheduling, most are too slow to do so and are missing out on incredible talent. More and more male and female millennial workers are running away from retail automotive as a career path, as they cannot and refuse to balance that type of work and life when so many other lucrative industries have adapted to these demands. 

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Fortunately for me, I have a very progressive GM who truly believes that family comes first. While I do work 55 to 60+ hours a week, I’m still able to get my sons to the orthodontist or attend a concert without guilt. We all know “the guilt trip” I’m referring to that too many of us have had to tolerate in the workplace for needing to take time off to attend to our children. However, as a single mom, I feel I also have to work harder so that I’m able to take care of my sons when needed. I work smarter and I work harder in order to be able to do that, always feeling I have to prove myself deserving of being able to take care of life when it happens. It’s not a matter of if it will, it’s a matter of when it will and your ability to tend to it. Dealerships need to recognize and adapt to these demands.

So, why is it so important for dealerships to take notice of the small percent of us clawing our way up the automotive management chain? It’s because women account for about 50% of all vehicle sales and that number continues to rise. According to the New York Times, 39% of women would rather work with other women when buying a vehicle, compared to only 13% of women who prefer to deal with men during the car-buying process. With female head of households continuing to rise, more women are making the vehicle purchase decisions nationwide. Female sales people and female sales management not only disarm most customers, but they tend to go above and beyond for their customers and in turn, receive higher quality customer service scores. 

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In the end whether I was male or female, having a positive attitude, strong work ethic and refusal to give up, has made people respect me for my accomplishments and ambition. My only hope is that I have been able to positively influence my young staff and whoever is reading this article as they blaze their career trail upward to break the glass ceiling.

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