Women impact fixed operations but still face obstacles

When Cheryl White started working in the sales department at Rally Subaru in Canada in 2002, she was the only employee.
“I was a woman in a man’s world,” she says.

She outsold her male colleagues at the dealership in Edmonton, Alberta, but “there would just be this insinuation that I was favored, that I hadn’t really sold that many cars, that I was being handed them “, says White.

This type of blatant sexism landed her in the service department in 2007, where she was also the only employee. When the service manager saw the need for an active manager in the store, White was hired as service manager in 2010.

“I have a natural ability to work with people,” she says.

But sexism was also omnipresent there. Information, such as basic financial documents, was not available.

“My learning really came from just having to ask questions all the time,” she says. “I didn’t receive any formal training.”

White says she’s been successful in turning the service department into an attractive place to work for women.

All of its front-line staff — an assistant service manager, two counselors, a warranty worker and an appointment coordinator — are women. All technicians are men. But there is a mutual respect between the two groups.

“I put a lot of time and effort into creating this family environment,” White says. “We take care of each other.”

She has created a department where women feel comfortable walking into the shop and asking questions about how things work, “and the technicians are more than happy to teach and share what they know,” White said.

But even now, she still faces obstacles such as not being invited to important dealership meetings.

“After all this time and the success I’ve had, I don’t attend the managers’ meeting, which is very frustrating,” she says.

She’s never made it her mission to actively recruit women, but employing lots of women and having a reputation as a great place to work helps. More than half of open service counselor applicants were women; her manager on duty encouraged her to hire a man to start balancing things. White hired a woman.

“The lady is always the best candidate,” she says.

Women tend to be more receptive to learning what they don’t know, White says. They are more considerate and considerate with customers. They have more empathy.

“They have characteristics that build trust with customers,” greeting them by name and remembering details of their lives, White says.
White says that sometimes employers erect roadblocks for women to apply when they indicate particular hours when the employee must be available.

“Companies need to take into account a person’s different home life and try to accommodate as best they can,” she says.

White says she always treats people the way she wants to be treated and thinks that’s the best way to attract and retain female employees.

“Show you care,” she says, “and it comes back to you.”

—Julie Halpert


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