Whitney Yates Woods grew up in the auto retail industry. Her father, Mike Yates, opened his Goodyear, Ariz. Buick-GMC dealership more than 30 years ago when Yates-Woods was just a toddler, following several successful years selling pre-owned vehicles.
Yates-Woods’ first job, was at the age of 15 where she began answering phones and later moved onto different roles inside the dealership. She climbed the ladder and accepted new challenges in the marketing and customer satisfaction departments.
In 2021, after the passing of her father, Yates-Woods rose to a new challenge at the dealership: dealer principal. While maintaining operational continuity and the dealership’s success, Yates-Woods prioritized getting more female employees onto her staff and changing the way women are represented in the automotive workforce.
“I want quality people, but I think we need to have a more equal playing field," said Yates-Woods in a recent article in Automotive News. “It's good for customers to be able to talk to both male and female employees, not walk into the store and see just a bunch of male salesmen and feel intimidated.”
Yates-Woods recently shared her top tips for recruiting more women into the auto retail industry. Check out her best practices that all dealers can employ in their stores:
Being aware is my motto. We must continue to remember the fact that only about 20% of dealership employees are women. If we all aren’t aware of this, how can we change it? My staff knows this stat and they know it’s important to me to have an equitable hiring process. I want female representation in every department at every level.
Don’t Get Stuck in Old Thinking
Just because “we’ve always done it this way” or “this person has done this job for years,” doesn’t mean a new person can’t come and do it the same or better. We must be willing to grow.
Learn from Existing Women on Staff
Ask the women already working in your dealership how they got into their current role and how they were hired. Inquire about what is working inside the dealership from their point of view. Not only will your employees feel heard, but they will often give you a great idea!
Reach New Audiences
Socializing job listings among the traditional dealership workforce in your community is not going to get you access to different types of candidates, including women. Place ads outside the traditional hiring channels. Post job openings on your social media channels – including Instagram, Facebook and even Facebook Marketplace, to reach potential candidates that are in your second or third connection ring.
We try to hire friends of employees and even offer a bonus if employees refer someone who stays six months—one tactic that has had a lot of success. We try to ensure we have representation in every department and that our staff mirrors our community.
Hire from Within
I promote from within and feel strongly about this principle. I look at the jobs that many of our tenured female employees have been doing and talk to them about future opportunities. I like to hear their ideas and give them new ideas on what success can look like.
I like to use the example of my finance manager. She was in a dealership office for over a decade. As a single mom who had kids who needed her, she valued the job security of her role in the office and needed a stable paycheck, but the pandemic put her current role in jeopardy. She decided to make the shift to sales and became the number one salesperson on our team, making more than she could have imagined.
On the sales side, she realized she could make as much as she needed or wanted by selling as much as she could. She was her own boss with an unlimited ceiling. If it had not been for a push, she’d still be in the office, where she was happy but did not feel she was reaching full potential. Sometimes it just takes explaining other career paths or having an example to see there is another career path forward.
Empower Your Female Employees
I host monthly women empowerment meetings that all employees are welcome to attend. We discuss goals, problems, and ideas for the future. We also touch on things that are going well and things that aren’t, as well as solutions to make them better. Men attend these and it’s helpful to have various perspectives. The focus is women, but we talk about a wide variety of topics and often have guest speakers or activities to strengthen and build rapport among the team.
For more information on recruiting more women to the sector, please visit womendrivingautoretail.org. Women Driving Auto Retail is an NADA initiative empowering women in the retail automotive industry, as well as increase female employment in dealerships by providing dealers tools and expertise.
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