The 25 winners of Automotive News Canada’s inaugural Best Dealerships To Work For in Canada have much to celebrate. They stand out when it comes to ensuring their employees feel like they’re part of a team that’s driven to succeed. But, there’s one benchmark that remains a challenge – closing the gender gap.
Among the 25 dealerships, the percentage of women workers ranged from a low of three per cent to a high of 44 per cent, according a survey conducted by Best Companies Group. Those numbers reflect a common reality across the entire auto industry.
A 2016 Statistics Canada study showed that women accounted for:
- 23.5 per cent of employees at automobile dealerships
- 19.9 per cent in motor-vehicle manufacturing
- 13.7 per cent in auto repair and maintenance.
Amid a stubborn skilled labour shortage and rapid technological change, dealerships cannot afford to remain bastions of male domination. But, their place in the automotive ecosystem gives them a unique advantage in attracting capable women candidates. They are on the ground floor, selling and servicing vehicles. They have a direct link to the customer. And, women, who comprise the majority of bank tellers, nurses, teachers, department store sales employees, are used to working on the front line.
Women are also penetrating traditionally male-dominated professions, such as law, medicine, engineering and computer science in growing numbers, and are drawing lucrative paycheques.
While women remain under-represented at dealerships, studies repeatedly show they influence between 80 and 95 per cent of car-buying decisions. That statistic was cited by Darren Smyl, dealer principal at Highland Ford in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., named one of the 25 Best Dealerships To Work For.
“We made a point of having at least 50 per cent of showroom and front-line staff being women,” Smyl said in Automotive News Canada’s follow-up survey “It makes a huge difference.”
At Bruce Ford in Middleton, N.S., women make up 44 per cent of staff, the highest among the winning dealerships.
“We don’t do it on purpose, but we don’t discriminate, either General Manager David Davis to Automotive News Canada reporter John Irwin. “If you have the right qualifications, we’re good to go.”
At James Braden Ford in Kingston, Ont., women comprise 50 per cent of the management team.
Virtually all the winning dealerships implemented family-friendly policies, such as flexible hours, but one went even further, offering lactation facilities.
What do women want? I can’t speak for all of us, but I was able to thrive in an environment that was respectful, stimulating, accommodated the work-life balance, featured women in leadership roles, and gave me a fair shot at reaching my goals.
My guess is that’s the bottom line for any employee, and it could be key to narrowing the dealership gender gap.