EDITOR'S NOTE: This is part two of three in a series examining why more women aren't involved in Canada's auto industry. For more from this series, click here.
Allyson Bell is convinced women have some natural advantages over men in the showroom, but she has had difficulty recruiting young women to work as salespeople at her Ottawa dealership.
It could be the long hours at some dealerships, said Bell, the 69-year-old general manager of Hunt Club Volkswagen. It could also be a stigma against the job of selling cars. Or it could be the remnants of what has been a macho profession.
“There is a huge sexist cult in this business,” Bell told Automotive News Canada. “There is still this horrible thought that it is a man’s business.”
The Canadian Automobile Dealers’ Association estimated in 2018 that men made up 78 per cent of the dealer workforce and 95 per cent of dealer principals.
And, a 2018 workforce study commissioned by the Ontario-based Trillium Automobile Dealers Association (TADA) suggested that automotive retail has made little progress bolstering its female ranks in recent years.
The study found that just 13 per cent of salespeople at the 158 dealerships which participated in the survey, were women in 2018, a one-point increase over 2016.
Todd Bourgon, executive director at TADA, which represents about 1,100 new-vehicle dealers in the province, declined to comment on the study, saying it was proprietary.
The survey, which was obtained by Automotive News Canada, also found that women made up 36 per cent of finance and insurance managers, unchanged from 2016. Women accounted for just 24 per cent of service advisers, up slightly from 21 per cent in 2016.
And one per cent of Ontario auto service technicians were female.
However, 17 per cent of respondents had a female service technician on staff in 2018, up from zero per cent two years earlier.
The study comes as the industry grapples with a chronic shortage of skilled labour as well as rapid technological change.
It also found that finance and insurance managers make 55 per cent less than their male counterparts, female service advisers make 11 per cent less, and female sales consultants make 14 per cent less.
Tanya van Biesen, executive director of Catalyst Canada, an organization that works to address the concerns of women in business, said female employees in the auto sector report higher levels of bias than those working in other types of jobs.