Time to organize around empowering women

To reduce turnover among women in auto retail, should dealerships develop their own female leadership groups?

Last week at Automotive News' Leading Women event, hundreds of female automotive professionals filled the room with inspirational and empowering ideas. The few men at the event probably experienced a feeling that women often do: They were outnumbered.

Many industry insiders praise female F&I managers. With their affinity for empathy and close attention to detail, women are generally a good fit for the job.

But still, only 16 percent of F&I managers were women in 2016, according to the National Automobile Dealers Association's latest Dealership Workforce Study, the same percentage as the prior year. And the turnover rate among female employees at dealerships was 46 percent in 2016, compared with 41 percent for male employees.

Michelle Primm, managing partner at Cascade Auto Group in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, said at the Leading Women event that even though women have the skills needed for auto retail, they are underrepresented at dealerships. Women should educate and nurture their female colleagues from the start, she said.

At auto supplier Continental, two women started a network to support, coach and guide female Continental employees through their careers. They spoke about the initiative at the conference.

I've heard of women's networks at a few dealership groups, but not the majority. For F&I and auto retail as a whole, female leadership groups could give women the empowerment and camaraderie they need to stay in the business and reap its benefits. Especially for rookies, building relationships with successful women would likely give them confidence to continue moving forward and make their mark on a male-dominated industry.

You can reach Hannah Lutz at hlutz@crain.com -- Follow Hannah on Twitter: @hm_lutz

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