Robert Johnson is chairman of RLJ Cos., which owns or holds interests in several businesses. RLJ is the dealership group's majority owner. Johnson is also the founder of Black Entertainment Television.
Wardell, who is also executive vice president of RLJ Cos., said: "We had the initiative for minority general managers, and we had success there. We'd like to do the same thing for women.
"For Bob Johnson, his legacy is making sure he's opening doors for people who have not been able to do things before, whether it's access to capital or just opportunities. This is the perfect fit for that: women in dealerships."
Johnson, in previous interviews with Automotive News, said one of the dealership group's goals is to recruit and train minority entrepreneurs to manage dealerships, putting them in a better position to raise capital to buy their own stores.
The company has five minority general managers. Though the poor economy has prevented them from owning stores, they have equity stakes in the stores they manage, Wardell said.
She said RLJ McLarty Landers started its effort to recruit women general managers about a year ago when it identified and began training five "high potential" women comptrollers within its organization who the company felt could one day become general managers.
The women regularly attend meetings for general managers and are exposed to decision-making and strategies related to all aspects of the business, including sales and macroeconomics, Wardell said.
Potential candidates would have to know, among other things, how to run a business and understand revenue and expenses. They would also need a firm grasp of how the retail auto industry is shifting to e-commerce and digital sales, Wardell said.