A couple of points from Juanita Baranco, COO at Baran Co. in Atlanta, stole the show at NADA's Women Driving Auto Retail event Wednesday night, in which women in the industry got together virtually to call for more diversity and inclusion at dealerships.
The first point, Baranco said, is her company's hiring practices are as "blind" as possible to gender, race and even names in the early stages of hiring someone.
Baranco and her husband, Gregory, own Mercedes-Benz of Buckhead in Atlanta and Mercedes-Benz of Covington in Louisiana. Dealers since 1978, they have owned as many as five stores. Their daughter, Grene Baranco, is new- and used-vehicle sales manager at the Buckhead dealership.
"When I don't know who you are — male, female, race, gender, sexual preference — you tend to end up with a very diverse population. And by the way, you also end up with a lot more women," she said.
Baranco's short presentation generated a lot of comments in the online chat.
In her remarks, she used the term "blind interviews" to describe the practice.
In a follow-up phone interview, she explained the "blind" part of the process: The company uses outside vendors to verify references and administer aptitude tests to applicants, without any input from dealership managers.
Later, managers conduct in-person interviews with a short list of applicants whom they can be assured are qualified. The interviews themselves aren't "blind," but the intention is to eliminate as much "implied bias" as possible.
Baranco said she borrowed the term from symphony orchestras in pursuit of diversity that conduct "blind auditions," where they listen to a sample of an applicant's performances without knowing who it is.
The second point Baranco made was in describing the image of a collection of flags that dealership employees assembled during the 2018 Winter Olympics, representing all of the employees' diverse backgrounds.
"They did it themselves, I had no idea they were doing it," Baranco said. "I looked in that room, and I have to tell you — I got pretty emotional. There were 40 flags in that room."