About half the customers who take their vehicles to franchised dealerships for service are women, but their odds of being greeted by a female service adviser are only one in five. The chances that a female technician will work on their car or truck are far slimmer — a little better than one in 100.
The minuscule number of female techs isn't surprising, given that historically few girls or young women have been steered toward auto repair. Since women make up nearly half the U.S. work force, they represent a largely untapped pool of potential techs.
The numbers in Canada are similar, according to Statistics Canada.
Most dealers are scrambling just to find men to work as techs, let alone women. But they may be missing an opportunity by not proactively trying to recruit and retain more young women to replace older technicians who are retiring or moving to other jobs, industry experts say.
According to the National Automobile Dealers Association's 2019 Dealership Workforce Study in the United States, women hold 20 per cent of service adviser jobs, up about a percentage point since 2016. Just 1.3 per cent of technicians are women, a level that has increased only slightly in recent years.
The NADA study concludes that turnover also is higher among women service employees than among men. The lack of a welcoming environment for women at many dealerships is likely a root cause, says Jody DeVere, CEO of AskPatty.com, which trains dealerships, including service departments, to attract and sell to women customers.
"There is some hesitation on the part of dealerships to hire females because they feel, rightly so sometimes, that their culture isn't ready for that yet," DeVere told Fixed Ops Journal.
That can mean male employees will be indifferent or even hostile to women coming into territory that traditionally has been a man's domain. That is still hard for some men to deal with, says DeVere, a co-founder of the Women in Automotive advocacy group.
If a dealership's culture isn't ready to accept women, DeVere adds, then it needs to change.
"The owners, the dealer principal and the managers need to want that," she says. "It cannot be driven from the bottom up. It is driven by the vision and decisions of the leadership, that they not only see the value but they have a plan. It can't be that if it doesn't work in 30 or 90 days, we aren't going to do it anymore."