The well-known poet, Maya Angelou, wrote something quite profound that I have never forgotten. “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” It seems appropriate to remember it right now, after reading the growing discourse about whether or not ADM should have posted the article about the 10 Sexiest Women. It has revealed several interesting truths, especially about those who chose to comment. Not surprisingly, most of the blog responses were written by men. Some chose to be clever, flippant or comical; some became defensive when their original comments were challenged. A very few were able to understand what women in the industry feel after reading yet another article that focuses on the outer appearance of successful women.

I’ve been thinking about the issue all day and have finally decided to offer my perspective. As “Judy” stated, I am not offended by the article as much as being immeasurably disappointed. I work closely with men in the industry almost every day of the week and count many as friends who choose to value me for my expertise and genuine concern for their success.

It’s no secret that the automobile industry has been a male bastion for years. While great progress has been made over the years to include women into the sales force, the F&I office, in manufacturing, retail and even racing, some things remain the same. In some dealerships and other sectors of the industry, time has not erased the “good old boy” mentality. The operating word here is “some.” Great strides have been made, but challenges remain; barriers still exist. Over the past twenty years, I have worked hard, rising from obscurity to becoming a nationally known trainer of sales and finance managers. I consider myself a “pioneer” in the industry. No one would consider me a raving beauty, but no one who knows me could say I haven’t earned respect for my intelligence, industry savvy, tenacity, creativity, or teaching ability. Hundreds of dealership personnel nationwide have increased their bottom line profits, due to my expertise.

How truly sad and disheartening it is then—especially during this critical time in our industry when literally hundreds of personnel have lost their jobs, dealerships have closed, car lines have been discontinued, and profits are hard to come by for many—that space on ADM’s Web site was taken up by this particular article, and that so much time was spent by the article author on the focus of physical beauty, rather than purely on the accomplishments of the women selected. How sad that the photographs chosen were those that focused on the outer appearance of the women, in “sexy” poses, and not on a visage that showed inner character or professional demeanor. How much better and more inspiring it would have been for ADM have chosen ten women in the auto industry selected for an inspirational recounting of how these genuine industry “pioneers” broke into the male bastion and achieved laudable success because of their honesty, integrity, intelligence, and plain old-fashioned hard work. Did you know that of the 100 women chosen by Automotive News as leaders in our industry “nearly half of the 2005 Leading Women have left the business for jobs in other industries?”

What women am I talking about? Here are only a few that would have made a great article in ADM:

Jody Devere with Ask Patty
Pat Moran with Pat Moran & Associates
Lisa Schomp, a third-generation car dealer and owner-president of Ralph Schomp Automotive in Littleton, named one of the “100 Leading Women in the North American Auto Industry” by Automotive News.
Stacey Gillman Wimbish: President of the Gillman Companies, also designated by Automotive News as one of the "100 Leading Women in the North American Auto Industry."
Tammy Darvish: VP of DARCARS and owner of 4 Toyota dealerships, who recently joined members of Congress with other dealership owners to discuss the recently introduced Automobile Dealer Economic Rights Restoration Act of 2009. The legislation will restore the economic rights of automobile dealers in order to protect jobs, workers, and small business owners.
Sandy Fitzgerald-Angello: Vice President/Dealer Operations
Rebecca Chernek: founder of Chernek Consulting and CCI Learning Center, author of many journal articles on industry topics and renown menu selling training expert

Yes, I included myself on this list. I’ve earned the right. I’m determined not to become yet another successful woman who leaves the auto industry out of frustration of beauty over substance. Remember, Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, but backwards and in high heels.

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Comment by Tony Sutton on March 25, 2011 at 2:06pm
Rebecca, a very poignant comment. I am currently working for Russia's largest dealer group and I have found the real leaders and innovators to be women, which is not a surprise to me, but this is in a country that is incredibly male dominated in every aspect of life. I hope both men and women who read your views understand that talent and ability are not gender specific in any way and we should embrace what any individual can add to our business regardless of their race, colour, religion or gender.

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