Semler Welch recommends reaching out to current female staff members and clients for ideas. She suggests asking, “What can we do to save them time, money or effort?” She adds, “We are all busy these days, but women tend to feel more taxed than their male counterparts and assume they have no downtime if they’re a working parent. Time, lack of hassles and convenience are everything to them. Look for ways you can modify your processes or service experience to make it incredibly easy to do business with them.”
|(Photo courtesy of Lefler Collision and Glass) Outreach efforts such as women’s car clinics and child safety seat assistance can be great ways to being in more female customers and potential hires.|
She also recommends reaching out to women’s community organizations. “Go to mom groups, professional groups, business owner groups, local schools, etc. Get out there and be visible so they think of you when they’re in an accident,” she says.
In the shop
As you bring in female workers and attempt to retain those on staff, take some additional steps to continue transforming your workplace.
Kathy Gilbert, Founding Board member of Women in Automotive and Director of Sales and Business Development at CDK Global, gives this advice:
- Encourage involvement in networking. The Women’s Industry Network (WIN) is a prime place for networking and support (and accepts both female and male members). There are plenty of other professional women’s groups with members from inside and outside automotive services. Consider Women in Automotive (WIA), Automotive News Leading Women Network, AWAF! (Automotive Women's Alliance Foundation) and Women in Auto Care. Keep in mind that you’ll need to free up employee schedules so they can take part in these groups.
- As part of your community outreach, consider working with a charity that promotes women's causes, such as Every Mother Counts or women’s scholarships.
- Reassess your benefits. Look for a benefits program that reflects what women want. Also look into professional development programs and paid time-off for volunteering at local charitable events.
- Provide a path. Gilbert says businesses must commit to balanced, fair hiring and employment opportunities. From there, set and enforce professional standards that protect employees. Petra Schroeder, Immediate Past Chair of WIN, says shops need to set expectations.
One more piece of direction, Carolyn Hosna, senior corporate director of marketing of White Lodging and founder of WL Women, says put your initiative in writing. She also says businesses must take the time to ensure all employees always feel appreciated and welcomed.
Looking at these recommendations, you might think they’d be good ideas for your male workers as well. That’s just the point. When creating a female friendly operation, you’re embracing new ideas that will help your business succeed. Look back just 10 years, and you’d see a collision repair industry full of gloom and doom, with many repairers wishing they’d gone into a different line of work. Today, the industry is vibrant and growing. What changed was the infusion of new ideas and ways of thinking and doing business.
Making the industry more welcoming to women is just one more step in that process. Taking it will make your business a far better one, and one that should be thriving for some time to come.