I have witnessed great strides for women in the predominantly “all boys club” over the last 29 years. This past year, Mary Barra was named the CEO of General Motors, making her the first female CEO of a major global automaker. And the first annual Women in Automotive Conference is being held in June, devoted to empowering and educating women in automotive.
Eighty percent of all car buying decisions in the U.S. are influenced by women and only 20 percent of dealership employees are female. The demand is obvious and, although things are getting better, sadly, the gender barriers I experienced over a decade ago can still be found.
Domini Martin, a Porsche and Audi sales professional reflects, “The biggest challenge of being a woman in the automotive industry is tearing down the stereotypes, such as a customer on the lot informing me he didn’t know they ‘let women sell cars’ or a client requesting negotiations with the manager because that is ‘man business.’ Once, I even had a male client take my photo because his friend was so surprised he was buying a Porsche from a woman. I’m proud to break barriers and help change the auto industry for the better.”
The same stereotyping occurs in service according to Rebekah Rose, a service writer at O’Daniel Ford in New Haven with 28 years of experience. “My biggest challenge is men coming into the service drive thinking I won’t know what I am talking about.”
Seasoned veteran Jenny Flanigan, a service writer at Audi Fort Wayne, says “The biggest challenge is when people call and say, ‘Can I talk to someone that knows something and is able to answer my question?’” But Jenny also agrees that there has been a major change the last few years. “I think people are getting used to seeing females and some even prefer females.”
Pioneers like Jody DeVere, CEO of Ask Patty, the Certified Female Friendly network of automotive retailers, is one of the reasons behind this change. Her network is designed to help dealers, attract and keep female customers through training and education. Jody also inspired freevehicleadvice.com as a reliable resource for women to ask automotive questions and receive expert answers.
My advice to women considering the automotive industry is that it’s not about cars and engines, it’s about people. To be successful, you must like and understand people, take care of their needs and allow trusting relationships to flourish. For anyone female considering joining the automotive business, I offer these parting words: DO IT! Be a professional and always take care of your customers.
About the Author
Julie Kimes, General Sales Manager