Yoga and healthy cooking competitions are helping women connect at Penske Automotive Group, which is shining the spotlight on the health and wellness of its female staff.

The nation’s second-largest new-vehicle retailer plans next year to expand its Women’s Wellness Week initiative beyond its East Region.
Intended to recognize and promote healthy lifestyles for its female employees — many who balance families with careers that require working long hours — the week of activities in its third year also celebrates them.

“We just wanted the female employees to know that they’re appreciated and they’re special in what they do,” said Margaret Lane, senior vice president of human resources for Penske Automotive’s East Region in Englewood N.J., a region that consists of 48 dealerships, five collision centers and about 3,700 employees.

In Penske’s East Region, 23 percent of employees are female, higher than Penske’s 21 percent U.S. average and higher than the national dealership average of 20 percent, according to the National Automobile Dealers Association.

The week before Mother’s Day in May allows women to focus on their “mind, body and soul,” through a number of free events, Lane said. Past events have ranged from yoga and walking to a webinar on de-stressing tips and a cooking challenge.

Lane said participation has grown over the three years. In May, nearly 40 percent of East Region female employees participated in all events, and more than 55 percent participated in something, she said. Participants also had a chance to win raffled prize baskets, Lane said. Some stores added inspirational messages or fresh flowers in women’s restrooms for the week, or created meditation rooms that employees could use, Lane said.

Natalie Jones Rozany, payroll manager for Penske’s East Region and a 25-year Penske employee, said she participated in all Women’s Wellness Week events offered the past two years at her office in Edison, N.J. She said she enjoyed the camaraderie and the recognition that her health and well-being was important to the company.
“There’s not a lot of time to take care of myself,” she said. “These two events have really opened my eyes to just small things I can do.”
Jones Rozany said she won the raffles both years in her office, receiving Fitbits, weights, exercise bands, makeup and skin care products.
“They hook you up nicely,” she said.
Many of Penske’s winners on the Automotive News Best Dealerships To Work For list this year mentioned the week as a differentiator and having a positive impact on their staff.

Roger Kaiser, general manager of Audi Chantilly in Virginia, said many of his 15 female staffers have participated, with most taking part the final two days that included T-shirt decorating and wearing the shirts on a lunchtime walk.

Colleen Lilly, administrator at the Audi store, said her favorite activity during the week was the walk.

“Everybody’s all dressed the same, so that’s fun,” said Lilly, a nine-year employee at the dealership.

Kaiser said Penske wants to grow its number of female employees, including on the management side. Three of Kaiser’s managers are women.

“This has traditionally been a male-dominated industry, and I think this [will] only help keeping female employees here,” he said. “I think it helps, certainly helps with retention. And then I think over time here as we build this up and [add] more people, I think it will help with recruiting.”

Eight of the 50-person staff at Jaguar-Land Rover Monmouth in Ocean Township, N.J., are women. General Manager Bill DiMaio said he encouraged his female employees to attend activities during Women’s Wellness Week and provided job coverage for them.

“It builds a tighter team,” he said.

Was there any jealousy from his male staff? Not at all, DiMaio said.

“I was waiting for that, and we didn’t get anything like that,” he said, adding that some male employees commented that it was a cool idea.

Women’s Wellness Week has grown beyond just a week of activities, Lane said. Women were asked to wear purple for International Women’s Day in March. Female employees in Penske’s East Region also are celebrated as part of American Business Women’s Day in September.

They also were mailed cards to their home, thanking them for their commitment to Penske Automotive. A Dunkin’ gift card was included for employees to enjoy a coffee on the company, Lane said.

The Women’s Wellness Week also encourages younger and newer female employees to grow within the company, as female employees meet each other and learn about roles in different areas, Lane said. Penske also encourages women to attend its NADA dealer academy class, which aims to train future leaders.

Lane said women established in their careers could be assigned as mentors as the program moves forward.

“There’s a lot of very bright, energetic, younger women coming into our industry that we want to make sure that they see a career path going forward,” she said.

Penske, of Bloomfield Hills, Mich., ranks No. 2 on Automotive News’ list of the top 150 dealership groups based in the U.S., retailing 236,000 new vehicles in 2018.

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