On Sunday, March the 8th, International Women’s Day was celebrated globally and within many workplaces and organizations. International Women’s Day was originally started as a protest for women’s rights in 1909, then held annually. Eventually, in 1967, the day was adopted by the feminist movement and then also recognized by the United Nations in 1977. International Women’s Day has changed vastly over the 111 years, shifting from a protest for women’s rights to a celebration of womanhood. This shift is largely due to the changes in our culture over a century, reducing the stereotypes and largely diminishing the idea that a gender has to live up to set expectations in careers, fashion and many other aspects of life. The automotive industry has largely been a male-dominated industry throughout its span of existence. Look back over the last 100 years and you will see images of male-dominated Board of Directors, Executives, factory workers and sales. The automotive industry has always had the ideology of being a “Man’s World”, but that has also changed.
In the late 1950s, Harley J. Earl hired his “Damsels of Design”, an all-women design team who offered a different point of view as far as colours, styling and packaging of vehicles. This team was incredibly successful, due to that the woman in the household is one of the largest decision-makers in the purchase of a new vehicle. While vehicles were being designed by men and women, the car-buying experience would almost always be handled by a salesman throughout the years. Fast forward to the automotive industry today, it is very different from the automotive industry 30/40 years ago. Technology has changed, the vehicles have vastly changed, and the salesforce in dealerships, automotive corporations and even automotive factories have become more diversified. General Motors CEO, Mary Barra was the first female CEO of any large automaker. Dhivya Suryadevara, General Motors CFO, is also the first female Chief Financial Officer of any large automaker globally. This male-dominated industry has changed largely within the corporations, but also locally at dealer levels.
Alex Brackett started out in the automotive industry in 1993, when there were very few women in the automotive industry. The salesforce was largely still male-dominated at the time and this proved to be quite difficult for Alex to get comfortable. Like any salesperson, Alex spent much of her time in training and product knowledge courses to help her get comfortable when dealing with customers. Once gaining product knowledge, Alex still dealt with struggles in certain instances. She recalled, “I remember one of my early days, it was a beautiful summer day and I had noticed a man out browsing the cars. I walked out to greet him, introduced myself and he looked at me and said, “I would like to talk to a car sales MAN”. I smiled, even though I was feeling disappointed, and went and got him his car sales MAN.” Despite some challenges, Alex also mentioned some of the great experiences in sales, “when a woman would come in to look at cars on her own, which back then was rare believe it or not. They would often ask for a female salesperson and I was always so happy to help. That led to a lot of referrals from other women looking to buy cars.” Cheryl Preziuso also had started in the automotive industry in the early to mid-1990s as a sales and leasing representative. Cheryl worked for an all-make leasing company, so she had the benefit of driving many different vehicles. She also recalled one challenge of the job, “Business wear for women back then required dresses, skirts and heels! Not exactly practical attire for cleaning snow off the lot or putting license plates on in the dead of winter.” Cheryl luckily didn’t have many challenges in sales due to being a woman. She enjoyed and embraced working with men, as she got along with them better, while also largely into cars herself.
These two saleswomen, Alex and Cheryl were successful even earlier in the days of sales. Today at MacMaster Buick GMC and Orangeville Chrysler, we have three very successful saleswomen on the showroom floor, Tania, Jade and Jaime. They all share a great passion for helping their customers find the right vehicles, with men and women both finding great comfort in their assistance with their next vehicle purchase. Amongst those three amazing women on the sales floor, we also employ over 25 other women in various roles throughout our dealerships. These roles are anything from Administration to Service Advisors, BDC to Sales and much more! We are very proud of our team and proud of what the automotive industry has evolved to today. The future is exciting and always evolving in automotive.
Written by David Murphy