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How dealers can improve leadership diversity in the automotive industry – Cheryl Thompson | CADIA

It’s no secret that diversity, equity, and inclusion, also called D-E-I, have been challenging in retail automotive. But, acknowledging and addressing these challenges head-on is crucial. So, in the latest episode of Inside Automotive, we’re joined by Cheryl Thompson, the Founder and CEO of the Center for Automotive Diversity, Inclusion, and Advancement (CADIA), to learn what dealers need to know as we go through the new year.

In 2023, CADIA conducted a study to establish baseline data for DEI in the industry. The study provides insights into the industry’s current DEI measures and recommends ways to improve them.

Key Takeaways:

1. Although the industry understands representation well, the study aimed to delve deeper into the data to examine diversity in job functions and leadership levels. The study revealed that leadership levels are represented in triangles, with more diversity closer to the top than at the bottom. The study also allowed researchers to investigate the reasons behind the lack of women and minorities in technical fields.

2. CADIA analyzed approximately 40 companies in the automotive, mobility, and retail dealership sectors. Some of these companies provided demographic data, revealing that women comprise 24-26% of the workforce. That indicates to Thompson that where leadership at the top of the pyramid (or triangle) used to be fewer women, it is now smoothing out to include them.

3. Regarding race and ethnicity, there seems to be a greater representation gap among entry-level and higher leadership positions. “To me, this says, yes, we’ve been doing a great job including women. But we must apply some of those lessons learned to racial and ethnic minorities,” asserts Thompson.

4. The other highlight of the study is the higher attrition for African American workers across the automotive and dealer worlds. There is also a higher representation of Hispanics and Latinos working in retail compared to manufacturing.

5. The industry needs to change the status quo. “What worked for us in the past isn’t necessarily going to work for us in the future. So I think we need to examine the entire employee’s lifecycle,” says Thompson. Many companies focus solely on recruitment, but Thompson suggests that they need to focus more on retention and developing the careers of their employees internally.

6. According to Thompson, there need to be more conversations to eliminate the higher turnover rates. Yes, exit discussions are practical, but there also needs to be progress conversations to check in on your staff and ask those questions about what you, as the leader, can do to support them better.

7. The full CADIA report will be released at the end of January, just before the CADIA’s Accelerator DEI Certification Program for Automotive Industry Professionals launches.

"Across the dealership, there is steady progress being made., and it's really promising to see." – Cheryl Thompson.


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Jaelyn Campbell
Jaelyn Campbell
Jaelyn Campbell is a staff writer/reporter for CBT News. She is a recent honors cum laude graduate with a BFA in Mass Media from Valdosta State University. Jaelyn is an enthusiastic creator with more than four years of experience in corporate communications, editing, broadcasting, and writing. Her articles in The Spectator, her hometown newspaper, changed how people perceive virtual reality. She connects her readers to the facts while providing them a voice to understand the challenges of being an entrepreneur in the digital world.

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