“What do you mean? We’re a dealership.” That was more or less the response our sales team received after asking a prospect what kind of sexual harassment training program the company had in place.
Like Wall Street and Silicon Valley, dealerships are under greater scrutiny from consumers, regulators, and shareholders who have had their fill of toxic workplace behaviors and the damage they inflict to people and profit. Call it the next “Uber effect.”
Just as the transportation giant once brought on-demand services and “sharing economy” values to the attention of executives in myriad industries, Uber today stands as an example of how old-fashioned misogyny can undermine even the most innovative businesses.
After years of reports of sexual harassment from inside the company, negative press coverage and consumer sentiment toward Uber reached a boiling point in 2017. In the weeks and months following ex-engineer Susan J. Fowler’s viral account of the sexism she faced while working at Uber, the company lost dozens executives, board members, and employees, as well as its founder, Travis Kalanick.
The new Uber effect has already begun to spread. In response to pressure from investors, venture capital firms such as Binary Capital and 500 Startups have let go of directors and partners named in sexual harassment allegations. The phenomenon isn’t limited to one sector; other industries, including media, are dealing with the same issues in the same ways, as evidenced by the continuing fallout from Fox News’ long-established culture of misconduct.
Times are changing. If your dealership isn’t changing with them, you’re falling behind your neighbors, who ensure their employees are treated properly regardless of sexual and gender identity. In other words, it’s time to recognize harassment as a competitive disadvantage.