Sex Bias: Car Salesmen vs. Car Saleswomen
A lot of literature attempt to discuss the predicaments that women go through when working in extremely masculinized careers. Before civilization, some jobs were reserved for men. Such occupations were regarded as a no-go zone for women. Even though some women could fit in the careers and even do better than men, employers were not willing to hire them. As a result, a majority of women were forced to take jobs that did not suit their interests. Most careers reserved for women were poorly paying. The onset of civilization brought an end to the era of gender discrimination. Women had an opportunity to take jobs in areas that were once a reserve for men. Ayers and Siegelman (1995) says that before civilization, it was hard to find women serving as car saleswomen. However, today, there are as many women as men serving as car salespersons. Even though more women continue to join the field of car sales, it is imperative to note that the cases of sex bias are still prevalent in the industry.
The women on the sales floor go through great ordeals in the bid to close a deal. The ordeal may range from sexual harassment by both the clients as well as their colleagues. Besides, customers tend to intimidate women upon realizing that they do not have vast experience in the automotive industry. The perception that women do not understand anything about vehicles leads to many clients undermining them. Lawson (2000) maintains that a majority of the male clients decline to deal with saleswomen. At times, the sales women are compelled to refer male customers to the salesmen. What is unfortunate is that the management of car selling businesses also promotes sex bias. Salesmen receive preferential treatment. For instance, they do not quarrel for arriving late at work. However, if a saleswoman comes late, she is reprimanded and at times forced to go back home. Such treatments lead to salesmen mistreating the female co-workers. The salesmen view the saleswomen as inferior. This paper will critically evaluate the state of sex bias in the field of car sales.
Miserable Working Conditions
A majority of saleswomen endure wretched working conditions in car sales career. Automobile companies and salesmen presume that women cannot handle a sales job. Additionally, most salesmen argue that women have a high propensity to quitting jobs due to family responsibilities. Hence, the salesmen hold that women are not meant to work as salespersons. Both the managers and male workers discriminate against young saleswomen. The managers station the women away from expensive models. Besides, the salesmen refrain from intermingling with new women (Ayers & Siegelman, 1995). It becomes hard for the women to adapt to the working environment. Most of the automobile stores do not offer on-the-job training. Thus, new employees rely on the help of the old colleagues. Salesmen decline to train new women due to fear of competition. At times, the salesmen misguide new saleswomen leading to them making mistakes and not meeting their targets.
Public expectations inhibit women’s ability to perform in the field of car sales. The public expects women to be innocent, easy to deal with and trustworthy. These qualities can take you to nowhere in the sales career. A salesperson is supposed to be aggressive and self-centered. It becomes hard for saleswomen to embody these qualities due to public perception. The society does not put into consideration the nature of the sales career. Thus, it becomes hard for saleswomen to compete with the salesmen. Ayers and Siegelman (1995) argue that male clients are reluctant to deal with aggressive and self-centered salesmen. However, they distrust saleswomen that exhibit these qualities. As a result, it becomes hard for saleswomen to close deals in the field of car sales.
Cases of employers using rough sexual references about saleswomen are prevalent in the automobile industry. Some automobile companies are accused of perpetuating a culture of discrimination. The companies subject saleswomen to personal and coarse sexual references and jokes. According to Ayers and Siegelman (1995), most saleswomen feel uneasy while on the sales floor. In most cases, they end up committing mistakes because they fear to consult their managers or male co-workers. Unfortunately, the bosses promote the culture of female discrimination in the car industry. Whenever salesmen are late to work, the boss gives them a warning and allows them to work. However, if a saleswoman is late, the boss sends her home without the day’s wages. It makes the salesmen feel superior, therefore undermining their female colleagues.
Employees of car companies work for long hours. Besides, they do not have time to socialize. For the salesmen, they take advantage of slow times to catch-up with colleagues. Additionally, they spare some time after work to socialize and meet friends. On the other hand, saleswomen do not have an opportunity to socialize. The salesmen harass the female co-workers as a way to avoid their company. At times, the saleswomen decide to go to bars after work to relax their mind (Folkman, 2012). The society is against women drinking alcohol. Hence, it loathes women who visit bars after work. Besides, people use bad words like whores and sluts to refer to car saleswomen that prefer to party after work. The same does not happen to the male colleagues. Apart from the lack of socialization, the saleswomen encounter challenges in their interactions with male customers. A majority of saleswomen allege that their first meeting with male clients was negative and upsetting (Folkman, 2012). In most cases, older male clients react rudely when saleswomen approach them. Others decline to do business with saleswomen. The saleswomen are left with no alternative but to refer customers to the male counterparts. The rejection by male clients makes saleswomen develop self-doubt.
Lack of Adequate Technical Skills
A common perception among male clients is that women do not have adequate technical knowledge about cars. Thus, when they walk on the sales floor and find salesladies, they tend to intimidate them by asking them technical questions. Most customers do not ask technical questions to salesmen. Besides, a majority of the questions that they ask the sales ladies not contribute to their decision-making (Folkman, 2012). The objective is to bully the women and make them unable to negotiate effectively. In the field of car sales, people use technical knowledge to measure the credibility of women. The same does not apply to men. At times, saleswomen are isolated from the salesmen to determine if they can work alone. Hence, it becomes hard for women to get assistance from the men folks if they are faced with challenging circumstances.
Women that do not have technical experience about cars depend on the male colleagues and managers. In most cases, the male counterparts use this opportunity to harass the women sexually. For instance, the male counterparts use demeaning phrases and terms in the presence of women to see their reaction. Folkman (2012) claims that it is hard to see a salesman that helps a saleswoman without expecting something in return (Folkman, 2012). Although salespersons earn a commission for every vehicle they sell, other staff like supervisors and managers benefit from the sales. In other words, the money obtained from the sales of the automobile benefits all stakeholders. Thus, it is the duty of all employees in the car industry to work together to boost the sales volume. Nevertheless, this does not happen. Cases of managers demanding for sexual favors from saleswomen are common. Some saleswomen allege that their managers decline to assist them because they do not agree with their claims.
Women Negotiating in Hostile Environment
Women working in the male dominated field feel insecure for the possible threat they face in terms of rape and other forms of sexual harassment. However, the most vulnerable things are the fact that closing a deal mostly takes place in hostile environment. This may includes areas such as the hotels and bars, offices and customers residential home. Thus, the sale person is more vulnerable to attacks by the client himself or herself as well as the premises holders or owner (Folkman, 2012). This makes the work of dealership unfavorable to women. The result would be quitting these sales jobs and looking for a job that is less demanding. In most cases women prefers or look forward to be served by female sales persons. However, they tend to trust men more than women on the expertise advice given about the cars. This act leaves women sales persons at a disadvantageous place because they are only preferred in business for negotiating on a bigger commission and not for consultation services. In addition, business deals that involve huge amount of money or selling of expensive vehicles are left to male sales personnel.
Managers and other senior official would also prefer having women kept a distance away from their own office or working area. This means that they would handle middle or cheap deals that would earn them little commission. These acts demonstrated or portrayed a picture of women being less aggressive hence unable to deal with timid buyers. Moreover, being able to overcome job stress is another area that women struggle with at any given time. It infers that in the event they get pushed to the end, they prefer to quite than holds on.
Another factor that is detrimental to women employment and jobs in the automotive industry is family obligations. These include maternity leave, mood swing and other partner issues that pertain to women role in the family. The work is involving because a person has to move about and spend more time away from the family. Thus, women find it hard to leave the family or go working at odd hours (Folkman, 2012). It may also include hanging out with customers at late hours in entertainment joint an action that leaves women with little or no time for the family members. This may end up creating conflict ion the part of the family, as they feel neglected by the female members. Pressures from either side would weaken women in conducting business and to an extreme end they would end up leaving the job to cater for the family needs. This would see the population of female participant in this sector goes down day in day out. The real threat comes from the male counterpart who brags for having adequate experience and expertise on technical issues concerning dealership and sales activities. However, some of the females have managed to move to the apex level of automotive industry business and acts as role model to new entrants. They are able to rear good families and make good money from these activities even better than their male counterparts. This has led to the acceptability that women are equally endowed with skills and competencies as men do (Folkman, 2012). The only step to be taken is to encourage and motivate them to be able to negotiate with customers well. Though there are multiple challenges, having women in the industry offers new perspective and approach to the duties and work conducted.
Women encounter difficulties in a bid to get a promotion because the managers do not trust their capabilities. Most automobile managers do not believe in the ability of women to undertake demanding and critical assignments. In most cases, the managers assign women less tasking jobs. For instance, women are made to deal with the sale of cheap vehicles while men deal with the expensive automobiles. According to Folkman (2012), salesmen get “more critical assignments that lead to advancement than women do” (par. 11). A study of over 1600 saleswomen in the American automobile industry proved that most women remained in the same job position for decades while the salesmen were promoted (Bureau of Labour Statistics, 2015). The promotion of salespersons in the automobile industry does not depend on the experience of an individual. In spite of many saleswomen making significant sales, they do not get a promotion. According to Folkman (2012), the factors that contribute to the success of salespersons differ for both men and women. In the automobile industry, it is hard for a saleswoman to succeed if she does not have a family member or relative in the company. Additionally, women are forced to give up their social life and families. A saleswoman can hardly keep a family and perform well at work. As a result, a majority of the saleswomen that work in the automobile industry prefer to stay unmarried.
Multiple studies point to the profound impact of benevolent sexism on saleswomen’s development. Most employers believe that women are intrinsically weak and require special treatment and protection. The perception that women are inherently weak underlines the reason most saleswomen do not get promotion in the field of car sales despite their exemplary performance. A study of the automobile industry indicates that saleswomen do not get exigent developmental assignments. Some individuals may argue that saleswomen receive little criticism compared to salesmen (Folkman, 2012). Nevertheless, it is imperative to understand that the reason women receive little criticism is because they do not undertake challenging tasks. Hence, less criticism does not signify favor in saleswomen. Instead, it serves as a symbol of condescension. Despite more saleswomen than salesmen receiving positive comments, only a few saleswomen are considered as possible partner material. Only 6% of saleswomen compared to 15% of salesmen are viewed as possible partner material (Bureau of Labour Statistics, 2015). The findings signify the use of common standards on the saleswomen as well as lower expectations.
Unmerited and Unequal Pay
The Bureau of Labor and Statistics indicates that there is a high disparity in wages between salesmen and saleswomen in the automobile industry. According to Lawson (2000), individuals that own automobile companies take advantage of the social fact of discrimination to oppress saleswomen. Even though the United States’ constitution is against gender discrimination when it comes to payment, the employers still perpetrate this vice without fear. They continue to offer saleswomen reduced wages despite their excellent performance. Most cases of gender discrimination are unreported. Saleswomen opt to take the wages just because they require it to survive. Additionally, no organization fights for the rights of the saleswomen. The lack of market power hinders the saleswomen’s capacity to fight for better pay. The saleswomen are left to the mercies of the employers who take advantage to enrich themselves at the expense of the workers.
One reason saleswomen earn less than their male counterparts is because the saleswomen are assigned to sales departments that do not generate huge commissions (Lawson, 2000). Besides, the saleswomen are deprived of the assistance of the mentors, support staff, and other facilities that might enhance their performance. In the automobile industry, outright gender discrimination is disguised as merit pay. The automobile companies accord the salesmen the assistance of the mentors and support staff. As a result, they perform better compared to saleswomen. Eventually, men get unmerited pays at the expense of the women.
Sex bias in the field of car sales is rampant. There is a general perception that cars belong to men. People believe that women know nothing about cars. Hence, it is hard for a saleswoman to identify the most efficient vehicle. This perception leads to most clients avoiding to do business with saleswomen. Cases of customers turning down or being rude to car saleswomen are common in the United States. At times, the saleswomen end up referring clients to the male co-workers because they decline to disclose their details. Car salesmen look down upon the saleswomen. Mostly, they use terms and phrases meant to humiliate the saleswomen and ensure that they do not compete with them. Public perception about women also hampers their capacity to perform as cars saleswomen. People expect women to be humble and trustworthy. Such qualities might be detrimental to a salesperson. One is supposed to be aggressive and self-centered. Whenever, saleswomen tend to embody these characteristics, the public, as well as co-workers, brand them as liberals. Further, customers avoid saleswomen that appear to be aggressive and self-centered. Apart from the public perception, the salesmen avoid to associate with saleswomen and assist them in case they have questions. The co-workers even abuse some saleswomen for engaging in activities mean for men. For instance, the salesmen use terms like sluts and whores to refer to saleswomen who opt to go to the bar after work. Benevolent sexism impedes the ability of saleswomen to develop. There is a notion that women are weak and need protection. Thus, it is hard for the cars saleswomen to get promotions. The wage disparity between salesmen and saleswomen is appalling. Saleswomen receive reduced wages despite performing better than the salesmen.
Ayers, I., & Siegelman, P. (1995). Race and gender discrimination in bargaining for a new car. The American Economic Review, 85(3),304-321.
Bureau of Labour Statistics. (2015). Automotive industry: Employment, earnings, and hours. Retrieved from http://www.bls.gov/iag/tgs/iagauto.htm
Folkman, Z. (2012). Women in the Workplace: A research roundup. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2013/09/women-in-the-workplace-a-research-roundup
Lawson, H. (2000). Ladies on the lot: Women, car sales, and the pursuit of the American dream. Oxford: Rowman &Littlefield Publishers.