Developing women leaders in the aftermarket

Mentorships, investing in training, creating a positive culture among the suggestions made by panel of experts.

There’s roughly a four-to-one ratio, men-to-women in employment in the automotive industry.

Our industry has over the past four to five years begun to see more clearly the value of having not just women, but women in leadership, and influential roles, involved.

I think things are changing dramatically. Gender parity is on the upswing as a desired value for gaining more ROI. More and more women are reaching higher in our industry for positions of leadership and the opportunities abound.

Many companies often ask me this question, “I want to hire more women and managers, what or how do I get started?”

I asked some women experts on this topic to weigh-in. The themes were very clear: mentor-ship, invest time in training, create a culture that women want to work in, develop a pipeline, hire the right people and finally create a clearly defined career path.

Donna M. Wagner, AAP
Chair, Aftermarket Management
Assistant Professor
Northwood University

“Developing women and moving them into leadership positions is a four-step process. It starts by getting young girls interested in the automotive aftermarket. There are a number of ways of doing this: showing them how to work on cars, taking them to car shows, taking them to work, project car. They are then open to getting an education or training (technical, business, engineering) for jobs in the industry. Next, aftermarket companies hire them into entry level positions, develop the talent and loft them into leadership positions. The challenge is that we are losing women in each of these steps and many times, we aren’t even introducing young girls to automotive. As an industry, it’s our responsibility to find and nurture the next generation.

“Once women are hired, develop their talents. Companies should be providing their employees with a career path and clear expectations of work and training to advance. One student said she is being strategic about her career choices. She sees women in mostly HR, accounting and customer service roles. Her goal is be in sales so she’s worked an internship role where she gets exposure to sales and marketing. It’s up to the individual to decide how high they want to climb in a company. It’s the employer’s responsibility to provide the opportunity based not on gender, but ability.”

Maryann Croce
Owner, Croce’s Transmission Specialists

“Shop owners as well as our industry can encourage women to be part of it by being a mentor. Be an example of professionalism every day. Look for the skill sets that good leaders and managers require. Listening being at the top. Define what leadership looks like in your company. Create a culture for sustainability.

“Women can own their story and journey of experiences, accomplishments and lessons learned. It’s their creditability, makes them relate-able and may inspire a future leader or manager.”

Petra Schroeder, “Collisionista”
Secretary, CIF (Collision Industry Foundation)
Immediate Past Chair, WIN (Women’s Industry Network)

“Educate parents and school administrators how full of great opportunities Collision Repair is, offering a successful career at mane levels/positions.

“When hiring females, prepare the ‘home team’ for the addition and set the right expectations so both will WIN (pun intended).”

Jill Trotta
Vice President, Industry Advocacy and Sales, RepairPal, Inc

“The most important thing the automotive industry and shops, in general, can do to attract and retain more women in the industry is to provide the opportunity. When creating your job posting, don’t post it solely under the automotive section if you are looking for an experienced customer service professional, post your ad under other sections and make it clear it’s an equal opportunity posting by adding women encouraged to apply or some messaging that implies that you welcome diversity. If you keep posting your ad solely under the automotive section or tag it as such, you’ll fail to attract women who might not have the specific automotive experience but have a wealth of customer service experience that would be hugely beneficial and potentially what you need to create a more customer-friendly environment in your shop.

Amy Mattinat
Owner, Autocraftsmen
Immediate Past Chair, Women in Auto Care

“To develop more women leaders and managers in the Auto-care Industry, I feel women need opportunity from their bosses to take on more responsibility to help them stretch and grow in leadership roles. They also need a mentor who can guide them through these new opportunities and offer their real world experience and knowledge because learning new skills and stretching is not easy. I also feel that to create a path to become a manger and decision makers in any business, she needs a strong network of other women in her industry both peers and leaders in an association or group that offers annual conferences that provide professional and personal development & a chance to create life long friendships with the other women of her industry.”

In closing, efforts to achieve equality benefit us all. Diversity leads to stronger business results, as numerous studies have shown. When the most talented people can rise to the top, regardless of what they look like and where they’re from, we all end up winning.