A large majority of respondents to Automotive News' survey say diversity, equity and inclusion is a top priority, both personally and to senior leaders at their companies.
And while respondents generally say their employers invest time and resources into hiring diverse teams and that equitable opportunities to advance exist for people of all backgrounds, some say more work needs to be done.
In 2020, Wells co-founded the Women of Color Automotive Network, which since has grown to more than 500 members. The group has begun to get the word out about the importance of increasing representation among women of color in the industry, she said, but it can't solve the problem alone.
"We need the allyship and the support of the dealer group," she said. "They have an obligation to the industry to keep it going forward with diverse groups of people."
Ford said she trains her dealership clients on unconscious bias to help change mindsets about such things as what a general manager looks like and how a person ascends to that role, and to promote more employees who are underrepresented at that level. She also encourages dealerships to set up diversity councils, employee resource groups and mentoring programs.
Women, for instance, often leave dealerships because they don't see a career path toward leadership or other women in management roles, Ford said. Some dealers have begun to offer parental leave, something she said was not discussed five years ago.
Mark Miller Subaru, with stores in Salt Lake City and Sandy, Utah, financially supports causes and communities that represent diverse populations, said Michael Ramon Aguilar, the dealerships' director of marketing and guest services. Employees also include the pronouns they use in their email signatures and on pins to create a welcoming space that promotes belonging.
Aguilar, a 2020 40 Under 40 honoree, also uses his middle name, Ramon, which is shared by his father and grandfather, both immigrants from Mexico.
"If you think of the automotive industry, you think of middle age, white, cisgender men," he said. "The industry has a lot of work to do to move us towards a place of greater representation in terms of voices at the boardroom table."