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DETROIT — With the aim of bringing more female professionals into the auto retail business, the General Motors Women's Retail Network is introducing a scholarship program targeting women studying in automotive retail programs at undergraduate, graduate and non-traditional education institutes.

The network will be giving out scholarships of up to $5,000 starting next year and will begin taking applications in January.

"GM was the first automaker in the industry to establish a program to actively recruit women into the automotive retail field as part of our efforts to increase the number of women dealers in our network," stated Marina Shoemaker, director of the GM Women's Retail Network.

Shoemaker went on to note that as the network celebrates its 10th anniversary, the GM Women's Dealer Advisory Council found that it was a good time to launch a scholarship program designed to warm more women to idea of making the role of general/executive manager or owner/operator at a GM store a potential career.

In May, the scholarship winners will be unveiled. Evaluation of the submissions will be based on academic performance, community service and volunteerism, work experience and a personal statement.

Officials said that winners must also have:  

—Acceptance and full-time enrollment in an accredited/recognized automotive program of institution (automotive retail and/or service management).

—U.S. citizenship or the ability to accept permanent employment in the United States without the need for current or future visa sponsorship.

—A letter of recommendation from a GM dealer.

"It's a well-known fact that women influence the majority of automotive purchasing decisions, which is creating more career opportunities for women in automotive retailing," said Karen Miskimins, of Hardin Chevrolet in Hardin, Mont. 

Miskimins, who also serves on the GM Women's Dealer Advisory Council, added: "We're excited about being able to help women further their education in this area so they're prepared to walk through the doors that are being opened to them."

For more information about the scholarship, e-mail wrnscholarshipinfo@gmsac.com. To make a donation, call the CMS Foundation at (888) 377-5233.