More women on the retailing front

I hope you enjoy our section on the 100 leading women in the North American auto industry that was published this week. One major difference between this year and the last time we did this project in 2005: There are many more dealers on the list.

It's great to see smart, engaging women making a difference on the retail front. Women influence 80 percent of vehicle purchases, so it is important they influence the sales experience as well.

I interviewed several of the retailers on this year's list. Rita Case of Rick Case Automotive Group makes a point to hire women for all departments of the dealership. “They balance the atmosphere,” she says.

That balance is increasingly important as the retail world transforms to serve a new generation of customers who want straightforward, efficient transactions, says Susan Scarola of DCH Automotive Group. “The companies who truly do take good care of their customers are going to be the survivors,” Scarola says.

But hiring women remains a challenge. Long hours and weekend schedules are often a turn-off, particularly to women with families, says Annette Sykora, a Texas dealer and former NADA chairwoman.

Lisa Warner Pickrum has discovered that first-hand since joining the industry in 2007 as part of RLJ-McLarty-Landers Automotive. Her greatest challenge: Finding a female general manager.

They and the other retailers on our list have great observations to offer. Check out their stories in the Sept. 13 issue.