The glass ceiling for women’s acceptance in the finance industry was shattered over a decade ago.
According to the 2012 Catalyst Census of Women Executive Officers and Top Earners, which counts the number of women in upper management in Fortune 500 companies, women comprise over 18% of all executive officers in the finance industry, and 19% of board directors in the finance and insurance industries in Fortune 500 companies.
BUT . . . that glass ceiling is only slightly cracked for F&I women in the automotive industry.
Why is this true? It’s no secret that the auto industry worldwide has been male-dominated since the birth of the four-wheeled, horseless carriage. Ownership of auto makers is passed down to the sons and to their sons in Japan, Germany, France, Sweden and in Canada; this practice has been followed for generations even in the United States.
Some 95% of the country's 20,000 auto dealers who belong to the National Automobile Dealers Association are male.
While a very small percentage of women has the financial means to become the owner of a GM, Ford, Chrysler, Saab or Toyota franchise, an increasing number are rising in the ranks to positions of valued leadership and respect in these manufacturers’ offices.
This includes the position of F&I manger at a local franchise dealership.
Why should this perk up your interest?
Because if you have the inborn drive to set goals, to meet and beat challenges along the way, and to be a leader as well as a team player, you can be one of the women to shatter the glass ceiling in what still remains a prominently male domain.
Challenges will be part of your F&I experience in a car dealership, but the field is wide open and you could become a role model for many more women in finance to follow in your footsteps.
It is part of car “culture”—still in practice, spread like dandelions in your front yard, and written about by every journalist on the subject—to repetitively say that many women start out in car sales and with their awesome success are asked by the dealer to step into the position of finance manager, but few stay.
The reasons given are always the same: no training for the position, no ongoing training, little cooperation from the predominantly male sales personnel, long inflexible hours, continued disrespect and a lack of dealer willingness to change the culture to be more inclusive of women outside office workers or to change former methods to reach out to women buyers in the community. When lumped together, they discouraged open dialogue and widened the unspoken impression that female finance officers are inadequate.
Here’s some advice given by two widely dissimilar women. Former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, who is still famous for her role as women’s advocate, said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Dolly Parton, who is one of the most successful female recording artists of all time and an astute businesswoman, said, “If you want the rainbow, you've got to put up with the rain.”
In other words, take a position as F&I manager at a car dealership with your eyes wide open and fixed on your ultimate goal: to not only meet the culture challenges, but rise above them so fast and with such dignity that you become an influential member of the dealer’s inner circle. One that has numbers to prove your value and leadership skills that have every member of the sales team eager to become your best friend.
Study; ask for training; provide it for all the sales staff and have weekly meetings with them to share successes and failures; learn not only the names of the office staff, but exactly what they do and how and why. That’s what leadership in the finance office requires. More than words. More than overblown reactions to a culture that is waiting for you to show them how to embrace change. It requires a concerted plan and actions that drive your ultimate success. Oh, and see that the dealership’s bottom line soars and those males in sales see their paychecks grow like a snowball rolling downhill.
Then the statistics will change and the article topics will reflect it.
Think Big. Start Small.