Why Aren’t There More Women General Managers?


After a decade of progress of women gradually emerging as an important and recognized segment of contemporary automotive business, it is frustrating to read statistics stating that only 8% of women occupy key positions in our national automotive dealerships. The same study also reports that women still work in positions of 91% office and administrative support, with only 18.5% total in the dealerships.

These are disappointing statistics, especially considering the extensive efforts and achievements by women professionals in key positions, and such factors as women being recognized as the decision makers in purchasing automobiles, and their extensive influence in most levels of business and personal decisions. Then, just why do these statistics exist?  Here are three reasons quoted from a variety of available statistics.

No Clear Career Path

The vast majority of dealerships have little structured management selection process nor genuine incentives in place for soliciting women executive material, other than the limited opportunities of promoting from within. Interested women applying to positions in these organizations are generally relegated to sales positions, or internal operations, and even office positions without achieving or even being offered executive management advancement. This is not addressing the issue, nor providing solutions.

Lack of Mentoring

Within most management dealerships in today’s automotive business at the dealership level, there are seldom programs in place that will provide a vital structured educational process necessary for advancement, but instead tend to focus on partial training for whatever position is open to the new entering employee. The trainers are for the most part limited to the specifics of the position applied for, without receiving progressive training as the skills of that level are acquired, leaving the employee stymied in that position. Thus, their training becomes specific and limited, without adequate training for moving to the next level. The expensive and tragic result: Frequent turnover is one of the results of programs without incentive and future.

Formal Training Neededwomen

Fortunately, there are viable solutions in the form of educational programs and training resources available for women with goals of becoming administrators in the automotive industry. Here are several, with quoted goals and statements from each:

  • NADA/ATD Academy

    Their motto: Preparing tomorrow’s dealership leaders today. Academy programs are for current and future operators of automotive and truck dealerships. These programs feature the latest in industry trends and developments, while also being deeply rooted in the fundamentals needed to operate a successful and profitable automotive business. Academy instructors are among the who’s who in the industry, recognized for their subject matter expertise.

    Here is the first step to their offer: “Each NADA and ATD member dealership has access to complimentary online education and training. Sign in now to view your member resources or complete this form to activate your dealership’s account.”

    Program categories broken down:

    • NADA Academy:  Sessions and practical applications.
    • ATD Academy:  Curriculum same, but customized to serve the needs and operations of commercial truck operations.
    • Academy Plus:  Educates and prepares six dealership leaders from a single dealership to maximize operations knowledge and accelerate results.
    • Certificate & Seminar Programs:  Dealership managers may attend any of the first five weeks of the Academy program, and hone skills pertinent to their needs.
    • Dealer Group Training (DLG):  Academy curriculum is tailored to serve the unique needs of a dealer group.
    • OEM & Allied Industry Training (OEA):  Designed to prepare OEM and allied industry field staff to better understand and interact with dealership personnel.
    • The NADA, ATD, and Academy Plus programs are year-long in length that include six intensive, instructor-led class weeks at NADA Headquarters.
  • NCM Institute

    Master dealership financial management studies and the opportunity to learn proven variable and fix operations processes and management best practices that will help drive more strategic growth and profitability.

  • Women in Automotive Women-Powered University for Mentoring  – 20 groups

    WIA’s Mission: To assist in the development of women leaders and provide resources that help achieve work and life balance.

  • Northwood University

    Automotive marketing & Management for NU has the unique reputation of having students employed before they graduate. The employment rate for 2012 graduates was  over 95% all in the field of Automotive Marketing & Management (according to 2012 alumni career survey).

So. Logic tells us that pursuing these educational opportunities with dedication by bringing more executive women into the industry, will positively change directions and increase not only enjoyment and longevity by all involved, but increase naturally-resulting profitability and future expansions as well.

This is very aptly stated with implications by former Washington Post Editor Libby Copeland in Slate: 

“When automakers fail now it’s much more subtle, a matter of the men who predominate in most companies failing to anticipate the needs of female consumers.” (For some indication of who’s designing cars, consider that just 5 percent of American automotive engineers who belong to the engineering organization SAE International are women.)

The facts and statistics – and opportunities – are before us. This is about much more than fair and equitable hiring practices. We have excellent formula success opportunities available at every level of the automotive industry. We must realize that this is not an issue that we will place on the top of our file cabinet to review later. It just won’t get approached that way. Let’s simply put aside any qualms attitudes about executive placement of women, and actually examine these educational opportunities. We need these professionals to thrive, explore new and exciting ventures, and prosper.