Does it actually matter that so few women work in sales in the car industry? Hell, yeah!

Time 12 months ago

Seventy per cent of car buyers have never bought their vehicle from a woman, an exclusive survey for us found, and the shock findings were discussed on Car Dealer Live the day the poll was published.

It was the 100th edition of our show, so it seemed fitting that the milestone broadcast dealt with such a major issue as well as other gender-related topics.

Rachael Prasher, who is MD of What Car? publisher Haymarket Automotive, said they’d been keen to gauge sentiment as well as perception around car buying among their female audience.

Seventy-five per cent of the respondents were male, which Prasher conceded showed there was an imbalance in its own audience as well, and she said she wasn’t surprised by the results.

‘I think if you asked anybody over a drink what they thought the perception might be from female car buyers about the industry, it would probably fall along similar lines,’ she said.

Fellow guest Julia Muir is founder of the Automotive 30% Club, which seeks to achieve a better gender balance within the industry and fill at least 30 per cent of key positions in member organisations with diverse women by 2030.

She didn’t think it was necessarily the case that the motor trade was still old-fashioned and conformed to an old-fashioned set of parameters and expectations, as suggested by host James Batchelor.

A similar survey conducted with club member Haymarket found that only 12 per cent of sales executives and only six per cent of sales managers among its retail members were female.

She said there was a multitude of reasons but added: ‘I suppose we also ought to ask does it actually matter that so few women work in sales? And our opinion and the research that we’ve done would show that yes it does matter.

‘It matters because teams where there are a better gender balance are actually more productive and more effective.

‘And the more you can get a team that is diverse and from different backgrounds and different perspectives, the more it reflects the customer base.

‘So having a team of all men, potentially all white, doesn’t necessarily give your team the best ability to know its customer base and to be able to serve it as intuitively as perhaps a team that is more diverse.’

She said the fresh information had come at a brilliant time as now was the time to start making changes and take advantage of the new ways of working and selling online to make it a better customer experience for women and men.

Prasher picked out another question, which asked if it was felt any aspects of car retailing were inherently sexist as opposed to displaying gender imbalance, and 29 per cent of women thought there was inherent sexism.

‘Whether or not that’s fair we could debate endlessly, but if that’s people’s perception, then that’s the challenge the industry has to face into,’ she said.

Muir also told how they’d found that 60 per cent of women in the automotive sector had suffered sexual harassment in the workplace, with 22 per cent leaving their job as a result.

She emphasised that it wasn’t widespread, but added: ‘It has to be removed – we can’t tolerate that there are people in the sector that are doing this to other people.’

Muir highlighted the fact that some club members such as Vertu Motors chief executive Robert Forrester had introduced a zero-tolerance policy to make it abundantly clear that such behaviour simply wasn’t acceptable.

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‘A lot of our leaders tell us that they’re shocked that they would think this would have to be made clear in the 21st century,’ she said.

Watch the interview in full by clicking on the main image.

Access all our Car Dealer Live interviews by clicking here


John Bowman's avatar

John has been with Car Dealer since 2013 after spending 25 years in the newspaper industry as a reporter then a sub-editor/assistant chief sub-editor on regional and national titles. John is chief sub-editor in the editorial department, working on Car Dealer, as well as handling social media.

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