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Women in Automotive: Pushing Boundaries of Leadership Roles

On March 8th we celebrated International Women’s Day honoring the achievements of women all over the world. In 1908, over 15,000 women marched the streets of New York demanding shorter hours, equal pay and the right to vote.

A year later, the Socialist Party of America declared the first National Women’s Day. Only a few years later, in 1911, the day of recognition spread to Europe – including Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland.  Throughout the month of March, we celebrate the 110th  anniversary of what is now called “International Women’s Day.”

Trends in Women in Management

Having worked in the automotive industry for over thirty years, I have watched the trend of women in management grow. These women are determined – leaning in and assuming leadership positions in a primarily male-dominated industry and offering alternative perspectives due to inherently different sets of life and work experiences in comparison to their male counterparts. Because of this, the automotive industry has seen a shift in opinions and strategies. Ultimately new decisions are being made due to the more prominent female perspective.

Not content with their own success, auto industry women are pulling together through mentorship programs, networking events, conferences and meet-ups in order to support one another. There is still a long way to go, but these events and many more like them, allow women to support other women in automotive.

Industry specific articles continue to recognize women’s accomplishments in automotive and reinforce the advancements women have made toward equality and empowerment. Women are stepping into leadership roles in many different capacities and are recognized for exceling as dealer principals, sales representatives,  general managers, fixed operations managers and controllers. These women are pushing boundaries in what was often thought to be gender specific roles. Women working as executives for vehicle manufacturers and other automotive executive positions are outperforming expectations. Not only are women breaking barriers in leadership roles, female technicians are bringing a fresh perspective to the long standing status quo. The blend of energy inspiring women in automotive is becoming more attractive for those who want to tap into their full potential in a more challenging industry.

Being a female in any male-dominated industry and succeeding is energizing. Especially when you realize your presence brings value, and with value comes power. Thirty years ago I knew I wanted to make a difference. I knew I wanted to make an impact and inspire other women to do so. Today I work as a business consultant supporting both women and men.

Why Don’t Women Normally Seek a Career Path in Automotive and Why Did I?

Even today, it isn’t normally the dream of a young women to pursue a career in automotive. It was an accident that I found myself working at a car dealership almost forty years ago.  A friend of my family needed a body shop secretary at the dealership. I worked hard to learn and was motivated to get out of the body shop quickly and work in a more challenging position.  I learned quickly if you worked hard it was easy to advance your position. Every time a new position opened I rose my hand until I became a finance manager and later a controller. After five years as a controller the dealership was sold and I started a family. A new opportunity presented itself and I began working for an accounting firm and became an automotive consultant. This position working for Withum has been so satisfying.  What has been most rewarding for me is being a female leader in the industry able to empower, coach, support and motivate more women to feel like they belong in this field.

Let’s continue to celebrate women in business and encourage each other to succeed.

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