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Women in automotive: has gender equality improved? — The Dream Team | Courtesy Automotive Group

Five female finance directors of Courtesy Automotive Group, also known as “the Dream team,” are breaking traditional gender equality barriers and contributing to their business’s success. On this episode of Inside Automotive, host Jim Fitzpatrick is joined by Dana Miller, finance director of Courtesy Volvo of Scottsdale; Clarissa Martinez, finance director of Courtesy Chevrolet San Diego; Sofia Faussette, finance director of Courtesy Chrysler Dodge Jeep RAM Superstition Springs; Dora Herrmann, finance director of Courtesy Chevrolet; and Misty Peckins, finance director of Courtesy Kia Mesa. The team shares their journey through the automotive industry as working mothers and offers their perspectives on what the car business can do to attract and retain more women.

Dana Miller | Courtesy Volvo of Scottsdale

Miller joined the automotive industry on the recommendation of her sister, who herself had started a career in financing and insurance (F&I). After working as a financing assistant for three months, her dealership sent her to a financing school. The rest, she jokes, is history. “I wouldn’t change anything,” remarks Miller. While the automotive industry has faced significant challenges in recent years, she notes that many of the difficulties have ultimately improved the way dealers do business. “Being able to adapt and adjust: we’ve translated that into more upstate deals and more remote deals than we have in the past,” Miller explains. Other factors have made the car buying process more difficult on the consumer side, such as interest rate hikes. However, Miller explains that many of these obstacles are nothing new in the industry: “It’s really just a conversation with the customers on the interest rates…” she notes. When it comes to electric vehicles, she notes that the $7,500 tax credit has been of special benefit to lease customers, who can use the rebate to reduce their monthly payments. Although women once faced an uphill battle in the car business, she encourages her female colleagues to join retail automotive as it has made significant progress in terms of gender equality. “It’s really changed a lot,” Miller concludes.

Clarissa Martinez | Courtesy Chevrolet San Diego

Martinez entered the automotive industry as a receptionist, working through the dealership ranks from the bottom up. After being pulled into a finance assistant position, she knew the role was perfect for her. “I went full force, and I’ve been a director for over seven years,” she notes. During the COVID pandemic, Martinez noticed that customers began to prefer remote purchase and delivery options more than the typical in-store shopping experience. Since many clients are still home-based, mobile service has also seen an uptick in demand at her storefront. From her perspective, the car business is much more accessible to women than it was in the past, and has made admirable progress towards gender equality. “I think a lot more businesses are more welcoming,” Martinez states. Although she feels fulfilled in her position as a finance director, she urges other women to push for promotions and to take more career advancement opportunities in the dealership.

Sofia Faussette | Courtesy Chrysler Dodge Jeep RAM Superstition Springs

Faussette was initially considering a career in the FBI after graduating until she was suddenly pulled into automotive financing. To her surprise, the car business was a perfect fit. Contrary to other dealerships, she notes that her storefront in Superstition Springs did not see a sizeable increase in remote sales. “We didn’t see a big influx of that,” Faussette comments, which she explains made it easier to accommodate the small number of customers who did prefer an online experience. She notes that her experience working for the Courtesy Automotive Group has been incredible, and praises the company’s emphasis on gender equality. “Courtesy embraces talent. Courtesy doesn’t see male or female,” she comments. The company exclusively focuses on capability and whether their employees are finishing their work at a high level. Faussette, who herself hopes to become a general manager in the future, does not believe the industry’s leadership roles are closed to women. “I think we’ve proven that women can do the job…” she quips.

Dora Herrmann | Courtesy Chevrolet

Herrmann began her automotive career working in parts and service until eventually transitioning into an administrative assistant role for a dealer. This led her to discover a passion for financing work. She joined Courtesy Chevrolet soon after having her last child and has been working in F&I ever since. She notes that the COVID pandemic boosted PVR at her store, primarily thanks to the chip shortage. “People were standing in line to get cars, and they were paying way over sticker, and they wanted the vehicle, and they were willing to pay the pricing, so the PVR shot up,” she explains. While the return of inventory has lowered pricing, Herrmann notes that vehicles are still more profitable than they were in 2019. Electric vehicles, she adds, are quickly becoming more popular at her dealership. “A lot of our stores are stocking EVs…We are ready,” she remarks. Herrmann notes that her store employs eight saleswomen in addition to herself. “It’s a great industry,” she remarks. As a mother, she is proud of the example her hard work set for her children and is appreciative of the car business’s opportunities for women and progress towards gender equality.

Misty Peckins | Courtesy Kia Mesa

Peckins notes that she originally graduated college with a degree in political science and criminal justice with the intent of starting a career in law enforcement. However, under pressure from her family, she ultimately decided to enter the automotive industry, taking a job in the sales department. “I moved from El Paso, Texas, to Pheonix,” she explains, “and sold cars for about nine months.” From there, she transitioned into financing and has worked in a finance role ever since. During the COVID pandemic, remote sales helped to bring more customers from out of state, boosting business at her store. Although the online growth was slight, she notes that her dealership has nevertheless benefited from digital retail. Peckins believes the automotive industry is primed and ready for more women to join. “I was…raised in a family where there were no barriers…if you did a good job and put your best foot forward, you were able to advance…the car business hasn’t been any different,” she explains. Courtesy Automotive Group has been exceptionally supportive of gender equality, she adds. “If you can get the work done, you have a lot of opportunity.” Peckins, a mother of three daughters, notes she would be supportive if any of her children chose to start a career in retail automotive.

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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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