When Whitney Yates-Woods took over her family’s dealership last year, she noted a disconnect: Many of her customers were women, but most staffers were men.
Yates wanted to be sure all her customers felt comfortable and represented in her store.
“I want quality people, but I think we need to have a more equal playing field,” said Yates-Woods, dealer principal at Yates Buick-GMC in Goodyear, Ariz. “It’s good for customers to be able to talk to both male and female, not walk into the store and see just a bunch of male salesmen and feel intimidated.”
Yates-Woods began recruiting women through social media last year and has hired at least 15 female employees in the past 18 months. Of the 14 managers at Yates Buick-GMC, five are women. Two were recently promoted to leadership roles.
Now the dealership, which sold 1,005 new vehicles and 1,276 used vehicles last year, has female representation in every department. For Yates-Woods, connecting with employees, male or female, is a priority. She routinely asks about their satisfaction with their jobs and their long-term plans and goals.
Eileen Miller, a human resources manager who had been with the dealership for eight years, went part time when her kids were born. When she came back full time, she wasn’t feeling motivated in her previous role. Yates-Woods promoted her to HR director, which took her beyond clerical duties and gave her more employee-facing responsibilities.
“She’s one of those examples where I thought maybe we’re going to lose her,” Yates-Woods said. “But then when she came back and she had this promotion, it was empowering. Now I could see her doing something even more.”
Yates-Woods also has reframed dealership positions. Her receptionist is a “manager of the front,” for example.
“It has this mindset of really making sure your employees are happy and motivated in their jobs and feel important,” Yates-Woods said.
Yates-Woods became dealer principal early last year after her father died of COVID-19. She wanted to carry on the legacy of her father, who opened the dealership in 1984, and continue to take care of the dealership’s employees.
Yates-Woods also started women empowerment meetings that all employees can join. Fifteen women out of a staff of 120 associates joined the first meeting, but 40 employees — including some men— attended the most recent one, she said. The group brainstorms ways to improve the workplace.
“It’s really helped us talk about our goal,” Yates-Woods said.