Early Bird Session Brings Women Together at NACE
Friday, Nov. 2, 2007
By Leona Dalavai Scott, Editor-in-Chief
During Friday morning’s Early Bird Roundtable session, approximately 50 women working in collision repair shared ideas and perspectives on issues they face in the automotive industry workplace.
During the discussion, which was led by Diane Rodenhouse, Rodenhouse Body Shop, women discussed the various roles they play in a collision shop environment. Some of the session participants were body shop owners, while others worked alongside their husbands in the shop, doing the bookkeeping, ordering parts and a host of other activities that take place daily.
Rodenhouse, a general director on the Automotive Service Association’s (ASA’s) board of directors, said it’s important that she not be known as a female body shop owner.
“I want to be known as a shop owner who knows what she’s doing, runs a good shop, and oh yeah, I happen to be a female.”
That comment led to a discussion about being taken seriously as a woman in an industry that is male-dominated.
Rodenhouse pointed out that it’s important for women to establish their own style of leadership and not try to be like men.
Women have their own unique traits, said Rodenhouse. For instance, she pointed out that by their nature, women are team players and want to collaborate and talk with others. This style lends itself to idea sharing and finding ways to do things better that you might not have come up with on your own.
One body shop owner in the audience was raised in the industry and has been working in collision repair for 20 years. She said that the No. 1 issue that prevents women from entering this business is the negative image that still plagues the industry.
Session participants talked about how important it is to educate girls at a young age about non-traditional occupations such as collision repair.
“That is why mentoring and working with vo-tech programs are important,” said Rodenhouse, who serves on several boards of educational programs in Michigan.
She stressed the importance of mentoring young women, especially, to create support and a positive image of the repair industry.
The Early Bird Roundtable concluded with a discussion of the kind of tools ASA can provide to help women be successful.
Some of the items that session participants would like see are:
- Accounting classes.
- Information on human resources.
- Specifics on understanding the differences between women and men – especially in regard to communication.
- Stress management for women.
“We’re at a crossroads and we must change perceptions,” Rodenhouse said.