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How dealers can help fix the automotive industry gender gap — Suzannah Sarkahian | Audi Wynnewood

Suzannah Sarkahian joins Inside Automotive to discuss how dealers can help women advance their automotive industry careers

Historically, the automotive industry has been male-dominated. Even in 2023, women make up less than 25% of all employees in car dealerships, according to The Bureau of Labor Statistics. On this episode of Inside Automotive, host Jim Fitzpatrick is joined by the general manager of Audi Wynnewood, Suzannah Sarkahian, to discuss her career journey and her insights on how dealers can change the industry’s unfortunate gender disparity.

Sarkahian entered the car business in her forties, uncertain of what to expect from her new sales position at Audi. Discovering that the automotive industry was unlike any other, she dedicated herself to working hard, becoming the dealership’s sales manager only a year after starting. “It was very rewarding,” she explains, “I felt it was a position that was good for me; it was good for the company.”

However, after earning her promotion, Sarkahian experienced a prolonged period of stagnation, unable to move up in the business. Although she found her work fulfilling, the lack of upwards mobility frustrated her. “Unfortunately, sometimes…I would wonder, is it hard for me to move [up] because I’m a woman, or is it hard for them to move me up because I do really well with what I do now.” Unfortunately, this experience is all too common in the automotive industry, as Sarkahian notes that many of her female colleagues in dealerships have disproportionately struggled to advance past their entry-level jobs.

This can discourage women from pursuing long-term careers in the car business. “I think a lot of women don’t really see themselves excelling in the car business, and it’s a shame because women really do belong in the car business,” Sarkahian remarks. Compared to men, she notes that women are more straightforward with clients and are more likely to be seen as genuine and trustworthy, essential qualities for sales roles. These characteristics are why her dealership, Audi Wynnewood, has a primarily female-led team, many of which worked their way up from entry-level positions.

This struggle to advance careers in the automotive industry affects more than women, however. “Unfortunately, in the car industry, people are kind of stuck at where you hire them,” Sarkahian states. “I don’t think a lot of companies like to hire from within.”

To remove the obstacles to upward mobility and balance the automotive industry’s gender imbalance, Sarkahian urges dealers and managers to start considering not only what roles their employees are best suited for but also the roles which will serve their employees the most. By helping automotive industry workers find their most compatible career path, both women and men can gain more confidence in their profession.

Many car dealers, she notes, have already made efforts to improve the automotive industry’s diversity challenges. While in the past, salespeople often shared the same characteristics, today’s sales teams are comprised of a much wider variety of individuals in terms of race, gender and personality. Sarkahian’s own store is an excellent example of this: “I think a lot of people that you would see in my store, you would never know they were in the car business…” she explains.

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Colin Velez
Colin Velez
Colin Velez is a staff writer/reporter for CBT News. After obtaining his bachelor’s in Communication from Kennesaw State University in 2018, he kicked off his writing career by developing marketing and public relations material for various industries, including travel and fashion. Throughout the next four years, he developed a love for working with journalists and other content creators, and his passion eventually led him to his current position. Today, Colin writes news content and coordinates stories with auto-industry insiders and entrepreneurs throughout the U.S.

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