In 2019, four out of every ten small businesses are owned by women. From 2007 to 2018 alone, female-led businesses have grown by over 55%
While there is still a long way to go in terms of real, tangible equality, times are changing.
Is the automotive industry included in this change?
In this installment of Dealer Solutions’ Spotlight Series, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Christy Roman, Founder and President of Women In Automotive, a group that seeks to enrich and empower women in the automotive industry, as well as the dealers that they work with.
DS: Hi Christy! Thanks for taking the time to meet with us today! My first question is pretty much the first question that I ask everyone on here! How did you get started in the automotive industry?
CR: My start in the automotive industry began back in 1998, which in internet years is a really long time. I actually started working for a company called AutoConnect, which of course later became AutoTrader.
DS: Oh wow, I didn’t know that! So AutoConnect was your intro then? What was the inspiration behind Women In Automotive? How did that come about?
CR: Honestly it came about after some of us had conversation about it. We saw how few women there were in the industry and thought about ways that we could maybe change that, and give women a better chance. We were kind of scared to venture out and start Women In Automotive, but finally we just did it. Luckily, we sort of took off from there.
DS: So thinking back to that same time period until now, what changes have you seen within the industry as far as women being more commonplace?
CR: Almost none. On a large scale, it is still the same. Although we have individuals who come up and mention that Women In Automotive has changed their life. Lisa Copeland actually has mentioned it with her transition from the dealership to her own consulting. But overall I’ve seen little change in that aspect of the industry.
DS: That has to be frustrating. It’s great to help individuals, but to not see the level of change that you should on a large scale has to be upsetting.
CR: I think in a lot of ways, the old ways of the industry still reign king. I think eventually, it will all come to a head, but I think the change will be the result of pain and attrition. It isn’t just an issue with hiring women, but with keeping people overall.
DS: Why is that?
CR: Training. It’s a complete lack of training. Women’s turnover rate in the auto industry is 90% but men’s turnover rate is still 70% so it’s across the board. It’s a difficult industry to make it in, and a lot of that is because training is so lackluster.
DS: It’s kind of a vicious cycle for training platforms and conferences. Dealers don’t invest in their people and so the people leave quickly. And because the people leave quickly, then dealers don’t bother investing in them.
CR: Exactly. It’s really sad.
DS: So in this era, women’s empowerment is flourishing. You see it in art, you see celebrities taking stands and commenting on it. Where do you see women within the next five or ten years in the industry? Do you foresee this generation being included more so than in previous times?
CR: Ideally? Yes. Realistically I can’t say. I think that again, not only women but young people who want to make it in this industry need more opportunity for mentorship. Not just for the industry, but for their lives. They need someone who can empathize with them about what they’re feeling and going through. One thing that we’ve been talking about and working on with Women In Automotive is having a real, official mentorship program.
DS: I love that. I feel that I personally have been blessed to be around people here who are older than me, who have had years in the industry and who have been around and seen the industry change and transform. I like to pick their brains, and I think that it has absolutely helped me in many avenues.
CR: Exactly. Because you’ve had mentors. People need that, especially in this industry. Not just women, but everyone.
DS: Alright Christy, so I have just one question left for you!
CR: Alright, shoot.
DS: The next Women In Automotive conference is coming up on December 15th and 16th in Palm Springs, California.
DS: For those who maybe have yet to attend a WIA conference, what can they expect at this event?
CR: You can really expect to learn and be inspired. We have multiple times in which you can network with others in the industry and get to know some of the people speaking. We’ll also have Google there to give a presentation, and not to mention a pretty badass cocktail hour with a hot air balloon right outside that you can ride in. Overall, it’s gonna be a pretty cool event with a lot to take away from it!
DS: Well, we look forward to it! Thanks for coming by Christy, I appreciate it!
CR: Of course!
For information as well as tickets to the upcoming Women In Automotive event, click here