It is commendable that General Motors now has a plan to attract more women as dealers, and it is promising that the campaign will be patterned after the automaker's minority dealer program, which after 30 years now is beginning to blossom.
GM seems to realize that its dealer group should resemble its customer base more closely, but getting there won't be easy.
The company faces a conundrum. Despite efforts to thin out its dealer ranks, GM still has too many dealers - mostly male, mostly pale - who on average aren't as profitable as dealers with some other brands. Even so, good dealerships -the desirable ones - are expensive because they still fetch pretty good blue sky. And the new line of female dealer candidates is right next to the line of minority candidates.
GM must make sure its Women's Retail Initiatives program builds on lessons learned from the minority dealer program.
1. Don't put women in underperforming stores, those that have been rejected by men. Give them an equal chance to be profitable and successful.
2. Don't treat female dealer candidates as if they're part of a welfare program. You need them as much as they need you.
3. Don't automatically graduate women from the program and put undeserving candidates into dealerships just to pad your numbers.
4. Include female candidates in every aspect of the evaluation, negotiation and acquisition of their dealerships.
5. Encourage the women to take responsibility for their own success or failure.
6. Don't be afraid to remove a candidate who doesn't measure up.
GM is first with this kind of initiative, and it will be a challenge. It also is an opportunity other automakers must heed.