As a female trainer who has been in this industry for 25 years, I am constantly asked this million-dollar question.
Listen up, because I am going to give you some straight answers.
Make no mistake; creating a gender balance on your team is worth millions. When female clients see a gender-balanced staff, they will be much more comfortable entering your store for new cars and service. They may even consider working in your store as they begin to see other women taking advantage of your career opportunities. Now back to our question. Why is it so hard for us to attract female employees?
We have created the wrong perception of the industry.
I am involved with a few different women’s organizations and I get a kick out of answering the question, “So what do you do Sally?” They expect that I am a nurse, like all of the other women in my family, or a teacher, or maybe a 5-foot model (cough cough). Anything other than a professional trainer in the automotive industry. Their perplexed expression is always the same and follows with, “How did you ever get into that industry?” I won’t bore you with my story, because the important point here is the reaction. It represents how many women feel about this field.
Changing the perception.
We must look at how this perception was created. Consider where you see female employees in your store? Are they on the drive writing service? Are they repairing cars? Are they on your sales floor, and management team? Or will you only see them working as cashiers and receptionists?
While there is nothing wrong with support staff positions, everyone knows they are not producing the highest incomes and they are often temporary. You probably have many intelligent women in your office doing your accounting and warranty claims, but they are hidden in the back. The average person does not know that you have many career options beyond selling cars and that a great income with benefits can be made. You need to make it clear that there are the same career and management opportunities for both genders in your stores and when recruiting. When we only see men in high-profile positions, it simply reinforces that this is a male-dominated industry and therefore, not a real option for a career-minded woman.
Where do you find good candidates?
While I think it is critical to make career presentations in high schools and vocational schools, you probably already have some exceptional candidates in your store. Have you ever asked any of your current female staff about their career goals and presented options? I often hear that women are intimidated because they don’t feel knowledgeable about cars. It is funny how this doesn’t bother male candidates. Product knowledge can easily be taught, but I cannot teach someone how to have a great personality and work ethic. Most of the successful female advisors I have worked with have excelled in another department. One of the best was a cheery, customer-friendly cashier. We had to give her a gentle nudge by reassuring her she would have consistent training and strong support from the entire team. Once she made the change, she was thrilled with her new income potential and plans to stay in her position for a very long time.
Does your team look professional?
I am going to add a point here you may not have considered. If you do have women in these positions, how are they dressed? I am a fan of uniforms to create team unity, but don’t put your female employees in men’s shirts that hang out over leggings. How will we attract professional women for our teams if our teams don’t look professional? Most women care about how they look and need to have clothes that fit or else they feel sloppy, which can affect body language and confidence. Implement a dress code that requires everyone to dress for success. As you know, a professional appearance commands more respect. As a new female is entering this business, she will need all the advantages possible. I have gone into stores many times and been asked to talk to the women about their clothes, accessories, hair and make-up. Just put it in writing and go over the expectations when you are interviewing for positions.
Consider the facts.
After interviewing women who are currently filling or have formerly filled positions in sales. service and management, I found they all have the same complaint. The hours are just too long. Many men work these hours, but we need to understand the differences. Consider a few facts from The US Department of Labor. On average, women and men both work approximately 8 hours per workday. In the automotive industry the hours are closer to a 9 to 10 hour range. But women still spend 4.5 hours per day doing unpaid work like cooking, cleaning, laundry etc… Men spend an average of 2.1 hours doing these activities. Now this isn’t an article about equality or who works the most, but rather an article of awareness. If women are still responsible for doing more unpaid work at home, then it only stands to reason that a job that demands long hours is not attractive to them. It is apparent that if we want more women selling cars, writing service or repairing vehicles, then we must have schedule flexibility. Right or wrong, society still puts more pressure on women to go to school events, take children to doctor’s appointments, keep the home nice and prepare meals. These facts illustrate a huge obstacle to getting women on our staff.
If that’s not enough of a reason to make changes, I can provide similar research that illustrates how millennials and Gen Z’s career expectations also show that hour flexibility is crucial to attracting top talent. It is time for our industry to catch up and attract the very best talent by giving everyone great career opportunities and options. Our next great team is out there, we just need to show them the way to a long-lasting career in an awesome industry!