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Women in car dealerships and why they are critical to success

Rod Alford / January 11, 2019

I recently read a book called 'Amateur' a true story about 'What Makes a Man' by Thomas Page McBee. It is an interesting read in which the author looks to untangle the relationship between masculinity and violence whilst training to fight in a charity boxing match at Madison Square Garden. It is a fascinating and thought-provoking insight into someone's life who has been on both sides of the gender divide. One paragraph in particular got me thinking about the recruitment and retention of women in male-dominated businesses, on page 49, I quote “…I'd promised to face the truth even ugly ones. At work disturbing patterns came into focus. I kept a tally of how often I tried to get my point across in meetings - a practice I'd honed aggressively in my 'before-body' that had a different impact now. Whom did I talk over more often? Women, at the rate of three to one.”

If even McBee with his experiences finds himself talking over female colleagues, it demonstrates the continuing issue experienced by women of getting their voice heard in the work environment. How can we change the culture of certain organisations and encourage women to enter currently male-dominated environments?

The Stumbling Block

The percentage of women employed across UK car dealerships stands at just 16% (Motortrader.com, 2018). Auto Trader, the online classified website, commissioned in depth interviews with 70 dealers and found that gender diversity continued to be a “stumbling block” for the retail car sector. It’s surprising that 18 years into the 21st century women are still so under-represented in the motor industry and across the motor trade. Greater gender diversity fundamentally enhances colleague performance, engagement, reputation and retention, as well as shifting perspectives and views. And if that’s not enough, it also helps you sell; if your customer base is diverse, then your colleague base needs to be too. Simply put, women buy from women (Auto Trader: The shifting mindset, 2017).


The data is there telling us that every area of the car dealership is likely to be more successful if women are represented in the organisation:

  • 85% of car buying decisions are influenced by women1
  • Men made 411 car driver trips on average in 2014 a fall of 23% since 1995. Women made 357 car journeys in 2014, an increase of 8% since 19952
  • 20% increase in the distance driven by women2
  • The advent of 'The UK Automotive 30% Club'. A dealer group and manufacturer bosses, who aspire to filling 30% of key leadership positions with talented women by 2030 – or ‘30 by 30’3

An industry that fails female consumers

If you then dig into reports like “Mad Maxine: Does automotive fail women?” written by Different Spin, an automotive research and innovation company (AM-Online, 2016). They researched 48,345 women (aged 18-64 in the UK with average earnings of at least £32,001) with a mixture of one-to-one and ‘deep-dive’ interviews and research panels. It published its findings in February 2016 in a report called ‘Mad Maxine: does automotive fail women?’

Key points included:

  • 90% of female consumers surveyed would not visit a car dealership without a male partner, male family member or male friend.
  • 56% said they felt patronised by car advertising.
  • 34% believe no car brand understands women.

My own search on Google for “gender car dealership” resulted in the following (and revealing) top five results:

  • Always choose a female friendly approved car dealer
  • Why dealers need to get the gender balance right (AM Online)
  • Women feel disadvantaged when buying cars, research reveals (Car)
  • Women in Auto: The Power Females Hold Over Car Sales (9 Clouds)
  • Women in the driving seat (Telegraph)

Time to thaw out old practices

A seminar hosted by Auto Trader in partnership with executive search specialists Ennis & Co and attended by dealer groups, car makers, trade bodies and motorsport firms (including the Jardine Motors Group, Marshall Motor Group, Volvo, Volkswagen, Nissan, Bentley, BMW, and the Retail Motor Industry Federation (RMI)) identified steps to encourage diversity and encourage a balance of gender, races, and backgrounds into automotive roles, and to retain them.


Among the key messages from the seminar were:

  • Redefining ways of working: Brands need to be less narrow in focus when it comes to how their teams work. Senior management need to think about it in terms of shifting the culture so that ways of working isn’t only about flexible working but unlocking value and potential in all people by creating the right environment.
  • Open minded: Brands need to ‘thaw out’ old practices and consider the benefits of empowering people, trusting people and flexibly working with people. Companies should have the confidence to embrace new ways of working.

The evidence is clear – forward-thinking car dealerships need to recruit more women and provide a platform that enables their voice to be heard. The next question is how to achieve this goal?

Employee Engagement

The first thing to recognise is that a car dealership is a combination of different businesses in one place. Different cultures and work codes pulled together with the showroom and workshop at the two extremes. Women must have a voice in these in these extremely different work environments to ensure their ideas and concerns are clearly represented within the organisation and its business development. Weekly10 provides this platform.

In a recent report on 'Employee engagement and productivity trends in the UK' the Each Person Survey stated 48% of employees say a simple ‘thank you’ will suffice for a suggestion. Weekly10 utilises positive psychology to engage with the employee. Ideas and issues can be 'passed up' to Management and Directors with one click allowing development methods to drive the business forward. It gives your team a voice. Weekly10 creates a regular review platform at a cadence that is appropriate to encouraging employees to suggest how improvements can be made.

In conclusion, employing an engaged and diverse workforce representative of your customers delivers a greater variety of viewpoints and levels of experience, which improves decision-making and problem-solving. Weekly10 provides the necessary platform and reporting facilities to enable your workforce to deliver to its full potential.

References

  • 1 Men vs Women The Gender Divide of Car Buying
  • 2 Road Use Statistics Great Britain 2016 Department of Transport
  • 3 AM Online Why Dealers Need to get the Gender Balance Right 2016

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