Sharon Pask, CFO of the DriveCo group (which includes Frankston Toyota) presented in a panel discussion at the 2018 Women’s Conference hosted by Toyota Motor Corporation.

This is an excerpt of her response when asked by the moderator “How has your dealership increased female participation in the male-dominated automotive retailing workforce?”

Sharon’s Response,

“The Automotive Industry in Australia is extremely “blokey”. Our industry only employs 19% of women. That number is quite astonishing when we look at the female participation rate in Australia that comprises of 46%, with over 54% of women working full time.

I was discussing with the Directors of our business what they thought the catalyst was for putting gender equality on the agenda. Without a doubt it was two very important factors, the first was having someone champion the cause. In our case that was the appointment of their first Senior Female Manager, being myself. Gender equality is something that I am very passionate about, and I consistently ensure that it is in the spotlight.

Secondly and probably more importantly is having an environment that supported and challenged the idea. As we all know without the support of the Leadership Group in any business, change will not occur.

The business case is an easy one to justify.

There is overwhelming evidence that greater female participation will result in increased bottom lines. The Peterson Institute surveyed 22,000 business and found that net profit increased by 15% for those businesses that had 30% or more women in leadership position.

We know last year 78.4 billion dollars was spent in Australia on cars. That’s a big bucket of cash. 49% of all driver licence belong to females.

At our Dealership 47% of all new vehicles purchased last year were from women.

Again, studies tell us that 82% of all car purchases are influenced by women

But what do they say about their experience?

Over 50% of women, report feeling intimidated walking into a dealership because of the prevailing male dominance.

Socially, we know that our Guests want to deal with people like themselves, they have biases just as much as we do. So, we market our Dealership as female friendly and give our Guests an option to deal with a female sales consultant if they prefer.

We also make sure that we use gender natural language. For example, if someone uses language such as Salesman, we correct them with sales consultant. Initially, staff were saying this is political correctness gone too far, so I suggested they use the term saleswomen instead of salesman and see how that felt. I find when you turn things around to see if from the other side, people begin to have a greater understanding.

However, I must say it is an ongoing work in progress.

Employment of women is one of the key factors and statistically we know once we can hit the 30% participation rate, we start to get organic growth.

We have found our most challenging issue the unconscious bias that occurs throughout the hiring process.

Unconscious bias is a tough one to combat, so we have redesigned our hiring process to help eliminate it.

All our job adverts are run through a gender decoder to ensure we are using language that is gender neutral. As a result, on average we have 46% of our applicants for Sales Consultants roles being female.

We then use a recruitment app called RemiPeople. This tool allows us to blind screen our candidates without identifying their gender or nationality. Unsurprisingly to probably everyone is this room, we have found that females bubble to the top along with males. By eliminating the unconscious bias, we are now able to focus on merit. This tool has not only been a benefit in increasing our female participation rate but has meant we’re finding better quality candidates – men and women. This has significantly reduced our staff turnover rate by 23% in just 8 months resulting in a positive impact in our bottom line.

We also offer part time roles; this has opened a new pool of talent that is really paying off for us and is attracting a lot more women. In fact, when we advertised for part time sales consultants the number of female applicants rose by 600%. Interestingly the number of male applicants more than doubled as well. We know that offering flexible work arrangements is a top priority when candidates are considering whether to apply or not and is also a highly effective way to retain employees.

With the support of these tools, we’ve been able to accelerate the pace and size of change.

Finally, regarding what we are most proud of, since my employment, 8 years ago we have increased the female participation rate from 19% to 28%. We have also increased females is Management positions. It’s a great achievement but our goal is to get to 40% which is considered a gender-neutral workplace.

So, we will keep on measuring gender equality and ensure it’s in the spotlight.”

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