Welcome to another edition of Diversity in Automotive. Ensuring a diverse and inclusive workplace is one of the wisest things you can do as a manager or car dealer. This June, as Pride is being recognized and celebrated around the country, we want to discuss LGBTQ+ representation, or the lack thereof, in retail automotive. We’re pleased to welcome Richard Herod III, General Manager and Owner of White Bear Mitsubishi and the Chairman of the Mitsubishi National Advisory Board, to share his perspective on LGBTQ+ representation in the industry.
At 19 years old, Herod started working part-time at the dealership as a cashier while attending college. He was studying marketing then and was curious about the other roles he could take on at the dealership. Herod began taking on more marketing responsibilities, worked on the website, and was in charge of the company newsletter.
But when Herod started working at the dealership, he wasn’t out yet. When he came out at age 20, his work environment at the dealership was very affirming. Herod said his colleagues weren’t concerned by it at all. Before he came out, Herod wondered if gay dealership managers or owners even existed. He thought his career in auto retail was over. However, 26 years later, Herod is now the General Manager and Owner of White Bear Mitsubishi.
In 1999, Herod was working under the mentorship of his eventual business partner David Roen who embraced the idea of sponsoring the city’s Pride parade. The brand at the time was Saturn, but today as Mitsubishi, the sponsorship continues every year. In fact, Herod’s dealership has been recognized as a positive supporter of Pride activities all over Minneapolis–Saint Paul.
So, why is there such little diversity representation in the auto retail industry?
Herod says recruiting likely won’t get any easier. However, having the right amount of talent in your organization is vital. Whether your talent has a difference in religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity, as an employer, your job is to nurture, train, and develop that talent. Herod looks back on a situation where a co-worker was inappropriate with him, and his employer did not tolerate the behavior. It made Herod feel validated. In turn, when one of Herod’s transgender employees was being discriminated against by the uniform vendor, he stood up for the employee and advocated on their behalf.
What may appear to be a small issue could be a big issue to the person experiencing it. When an employer or person in leadership practices tolerance, it can validate the employee’s feelings. Visibility is critical as well, says Herod. If you are a company looking for diverse talent, make sure your employees with diverse backgrounds are visible.
There are very few LGBTQ+-owned dealerships in the country, and Herod thinks there definitely needs to be more. He believes that many car companies have made great strides with their minority dealer programs, but they could go a step further. They could create dealer partner programs for the LGBTQ+ community. Many brands have embraced gay owners, but Herod thinks they can do more than switch their logo to Pride colors one month a year. In Herod’s opinion, what matters more is working closely with the local community.
In regards to hiring, Herod says including a space for preferred pronouns on job applications is an excellent signal to candidates that you are welcoming. Training your personnel on how to approach customers with gender-neutral language is also essential. Employee research groups or ERGs are excellent platforms to move diversity awareness and recruitment strategy forward. These are just some of the ways to create groups of advocates within your dealership to help build a culture.
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