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Bringing More Women Into Leadership Roles at Dealerships

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Liza Borches, CEO and president of Carter Myers Automotive, wants to dramatically increase the number of women in dealership leadership positions.

Women account for just over  21% of the dealership workforce, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data. The number of people in dealership management is only a fraction of that.  

Borches has partnered with executive development consultant Danelle Delgado to launch a leadership training and mentoring initiative for women dealership managers. The goal of the invitation-only program is to boost the number of women leaders at Carter Myers (CMA) and in the retail auto industry as a whole, Borches says.

“I had been in automotive for 22 years,” Borches tells WardsAuto. “I knew one of the things lacking in this industry is strong personal and professional development.”

While dealerships do a great job of helping people improve at sales and service and parts and accounting, they lack “a great process or development plan to grow humans and grow people as great leaders and people in our community,” Borches says.

Borches and Delgado have created a one-year program with weekly virtual training sessions, monthly coaching calls, a community for mentorship and questions and answers, and at least six speakers, both male and female.

“We want women to bring their unique superpowers and leadership skills to our industry,” Borches says

The training is based on the Team Engage platform Delgado uses worldwide, across industries, to help individuals and teams perform to their full potential.

It is “most excellent for people in leadership initiatives who get frustrated with underachieving,” she tells WardsAuto.

Women Leaders Boost Performance

Studies have found that having women in top leadership positions at companies in general boost performance. A study by S&P Global, for example, found that within 24 months of a female CEO’s appointment, firms saw a 20% increase in stock price momentum. Firms with a female CFO saw a 6% increase in profitability.

Given the small number of women in top positions in the retail auto industry, leadership initiatives such as Borches’ are “really important,” Kathy Gilbert, senior director, minority dealer and women retail at CDK Global, tells WardsAuto.

While official numbers aren’t readily available for the number of women general managers and dealer principals among the some 16,835 U.S., experts estimate the number is minimal.

CDK’s Gilbert, who is also a founder of Women in Automotive (WIA), an organization dedicated to expanding women’s presence in the industry, says according to her records there are only about 1,000 women-owned automotive retail stores. Another 900 are “influenced by women”, meaning a woman has a major role in the decision-making process.

WIA supports women through mentoring, an annual conference, regional WIA social events, and partnering with other women-focused organizations worldwide, regardless of industry.

“The overall focus is building community,” Gilbert says.

WIA also works with dealership groups to create more equal footing for women in their organizations. She has seen more dealers starting to think about that, Gilbert says.

“The dealers are starting to want to do better,” she says. “Women in their personal lives are letting them know women are not on equal footing” in the dealership world.

Having someone like Borches, who is in a leadership role in the industry, promote an initiative to grow women leaders, is especially important, Gilbert says. “It starts at the top.”

Tag Team Effort

Delgado, who had never worked with the automotive industry before meeting Borches, describes the impetus for developing the leadership training program as a “tag team effort.”

“There was really no two people that believed in women’s progress and automotive more than the two of us together,” Delgado says.

It all began about five years ago when Borches approached Delgado for personal training after hearing her speak. After their first conversation, which lasted two hours, Delgado told Borches, “You are not selling cars; you are moving lives forward.”

Borches says that “answered so many questions for me about why I love our industry.”

Working with Delgado personally led to training for the entire CMA staff. CMA has 31 dealerships across Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and North Carolina.

After seeing big changes at CMA under Delagado’s program, Borches asked Delgado if they could develop the leadership training program they are now launching.

Borches says she was driven by the scarcity of women who were general managers or above the industry level. Many women do not make it past the departmental leadership level, she says.  

“I think it’s a combination of women choosing to leave the industry for various reasons or not having developed the proper skills to take their leadership up to that next level,” Borches says.

The course aims to give those skills to women already in dealership management positions. The inaugural class of 50 women will include 25 from Carter Myers Automotive (CMA) and 25 from other dealerships.

Delgado says the program will teach the women “to become an asset. I am taking these people and turning them into winners,” she says.

For her part, by the end of the first year-long program, Borches wants to see the women “further along in their career path.” With the training and mentorship they receive, “it will be a natural selection when the next opening occurs,” Borches says.

The inaugural group “will be a great story to help grow this…



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2024-07-09 11:19:48

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