Hidden figures: women in F&I

Some of the top mathematicians in the world are women.

If you haven’t seen the movie Hidden Figures, it’s well worth the time. The movie “myth-busts” the idea that women are not good at math.

Three brilliant African-American mathematician women at NASA – Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe) – serve as the brains behind one of the greatest operations in history: the launch of astronaut John Glenn (Glen Powell) into orbit, a stunning achievement that restored the nation’s confidence, turned around the Space Race and galvanized the world.

In fact, today in the U.S., the top 1 percent of SAT scorers in mathematics include as many girls as boys.

Women take an equal amount of mathematics related courses as men in high school, college and even in pursuing a Ph.D.

F&I manager is a critical role at used car dealerships, one in which we need to put the math skills of women to work.

While sales staff makes the sale, many customers wouldn’t be able to drive off the lot without the financing provided by the F&I department.

F&I careers are lucrative. In 2019, incumbent F&I managers had the largest weekly earnings growth – 7 percent year-over-year.

But only 19 percent of F&I positions are women employees, according to a recent ESI Trends workforce study.

How can used car dealers attract and hire more women into F&I roles and why is that important to the bottom line?

I asked some experts in F&I training and recruiting to weigh in on that topic.

Rebecca Chernek, CEO of Chernek Consulting, LLC: “Dealers need to target, recruit and educate female students about F&I career opportunities early enough for them to tailor their college course selections. Students need to know that F&I offers professional advancement and a great living, and that lots of women excel in the field.

“Dealers should also recruit at job fairs for people leaving the military. Women who have served typically have proven skills and know how to get the job done.

“Women in F&I benefit the bottom line because they respond well in an F&I manager role. For the most part, they are made for the position. Women are better communicators. They listen. They empathize. They relate. But they’re also detail oriented and process-driven. When it comes to F&I, they hit the ball out of the park.

“Women also tend to change jobs less. One of my dealer group clients has a predominantly female F&I staff, including one with 20- plus years’ tenure. In today’s market, more women are purchasing vehicles – and women have more purchasing power. Women tend to connect well with everyone, but they definitely relate to female customers to reduce the pressure to buy.”

Tony Dupaquier, director of The Academy: “Women continue to be top performers in the business office, and a dealer’s search to find top performers often becomes a struggle. I always suggest looking inside the dealership first – someone who is very customer-centric, follows directions well, is diligent with paperwork and details, and, of course, is trustworthy.

“Often those women are found in a receptionist role, the back office, the service lane and the sales department.

“If sourcing for women outside of the retail automotive industry is preferred, banking, real estate, the mortgage industry and service industries continue to provide successful transitions to the automotive industry. But we must give those women an opportunity to experience the work dynamics of the used car dealership before putting them into a business manager role.”

2017 Cox Automotive Dealership Staffing Study: “Are your job listings, company culture, compensation structures and other team members putting up an unintentional barrier to women?

“Start with looking at your job listings to see if they’re overly masculine – are your examples geared more toward male professionals?

“Do you require considerable hours on weekends or during the work week? That could put young parents at a disadvantage.

“As dealers know, customers love buying from people they can relate to, and getting talented women into F&I roles will help female customers – who influence nearly nine of 10 car purchases – and make an impact and a positive impression with today’s buyers.

” I’ll close with a reminder that hiring more women can help F&I employee turnover rates.

Employee turnover has increased considerably in our industry, with some dealers reporting F&I turnover as high as 32 percent as the demand for quality F&I managers increases.

Women are very loyal employees – if they are given equal opportunities, benefits, training and a clear career path to succeed and grow with your business.

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