Note: This is the first of a three-part series on a subject that needs more that a single column to do it justice, because women are critical to your success.
There are thousands of intelligent and well-qualified women candidates out there that could be succeeding at your dealership. An American Council on Education statistic indicates that 57% of college enrollments are women, and the imbalance continues to increase. Though efforts have been made on many fronts to promote diversity within the auto industry, women are still underrepresented, particularly at the management level. According to a 2010 Catalyst report, women accounted for 13% of the industry’s sales force, but represented only 2.8% of dealership owners, 18% of dealership employees and a mere 1.4% of service technicians and mechanics.
If there are so many qualified women, why is there such a lack of them in the car business? A 2010 CNW Marketing study found that 47.3% of women car shoppers prefer to buy from female salespeople, and with 44% or more of primary vehicle buyers being women, it is time to get serious about recruiting more women into the business, and retaining the ones that are hired.
The disconnect lies in the fact that women, on the whole, have their own set of tools for thinking, reacting, feeling and strategizing about their futures that continues to challenge dealers in their recruitment of women.
Think of it this way: Humans and mice share 95% of the same DNA, but that 5% makes quite a difference! The case is similar for men and women. From biochemistry to sociolinguistics, research shows that each gender has its own built-in set of abilities, attitudes, priorities and preferences. You may even call it “gender culture.” Consequently, women are hardwired and conditioned differently from their male counterparts, and the same goes for female and male sales and service professionals.
More so than men, women are looking for trust in their relationship with their sales consultant—trust not only in their product knowledge and integrity, but also trust on a personal level. It’s a matter of shared values; she wants to deal with someone who understands where she’s coming from, who can relate to her experiences or life stage, or who will take her values and fears seriously without passing judgment. It is no surprise that many women feel that another woman can fill that role more neatly than a man in an industry that has still not completely shaken its “boys’ club” reputation. This does not at all mean that men are unsuited to work with women customers; it simply means that the auto industry needs to inject more women friendly practices into its sales, recruiting and retention practices to welcome women aboard and keep them there.
As women’s needs and interests in investing continue to grow, there is no doubt that their influence and presence in industry leadership should follow closely behind.
The basics of gender culture
Let’s dig a little deeper into the differences between the sexes and how you can bolster your sales and recruitment processes. One of the most significant distinctions between men and women is how they relate to members of the same sex. Men tend to be more solitary and strongly value their independence and autonomy. Competition is considered fun and winning is the goal. Men also tend to organize into tiered hierarchies; think sports teams, corporations or the military with their distinct leadership structures.
Women, conversely, are ensemble players who value cooperation over dominance. Studies show that women and men actually have equal levels of internal competitiveness (the drive for personal excellence) but that women find external competition (that desire to beat somebody into the ground) to be pointless. In general, young girls enjoy activities that promote equality—there are no winners and losers when playing house—and tend to play competitive games without keeping score. This inclination toward equality remains a factor into adulthood. Instead of a hierarchy, women tend to organize their businesses collaboratively, with interaction going in all directions instead of in a chain of command.