Liza Myers Borches, CEO of Carter Myers Automotive, was mistaken for a spouse of a dealer, not a dealer herself, when she went to a baseball game with an automaker.
A situation such as that is rare these days, she said, but "that just told me that there's still some unconscious bias. It happens, and we're all going to move past it. We're going to learn from it together."
Especially over the past few years, more women have been recruited and promoted in the auto industry. But women should continue to voice their opinions to keep propelling the industry toward change, auto retail leaders said on a panel Saturday.
Most millennials see a more balanced work force than previous generations, said Lori Wittman, senior vice president of dealer software solutions for Cox Automotive.
"There's not these boxes around this is what women do and this is what men do," Wittman said.
A few years ago, the vast majority of conversations about recruiting women in the industry were started by women. Today, many men are intentionally recruiting and promoting more women, Borches said.
"It's not just women talking about this subject anymore. It's all of us," she said.
Wittman said at times throughout her career, she and other women were held back because they feared being labeled bossy.
"If you don't want to be labeled that way, you might behave differently than your male counterpart," she said. "Frankly, being bossy and having a point of view is really, really important."
If women don't speak up, Borches added, the industry would never change. "We owe it to each other to speak up and be confident," she said. "We need everybody's opinion."