I had the high honor of participating in the Women’s Automotive Association International annual breakfast meeting at the premiere of the New York Auto Show on Friday, the 1st of April. During this meeting, the WAAI assembled a group of women from different aspects of the auto industry to discuss state of this business vertical and the position women hold and how these opportunities could be improved for them. The discussion topic was “Transitions” in the automotive industry and its effect on the women in general. The panel discussion members, comprised of Judith Schumacher, an automobile dealer from eastern region, Melissa Newell of MBUSA digital marketing department, Erin Touponse, Director of Communications and General Manger of Harte Group, Alexi Venneri, CFO of Digital Air Strike an automotive service marketing company, Denise Petitta, Marketing Executive of Chase Auto Finance, and yours truly, VP of izmoCRM!
There was general consensus that the automotive retail space, of which two of the panelists were members, is not extremely open to women in executive positions. The long hours of operations and the fact that these establishments are mostly privately owned mostly by men make it very difficult for women to penetrate the executive suite. Also, in the retail space, there is no more room for growth beyond dealership management and this seemed to be a source of concern for the ladies.
The women who were not from retail automotive space had a much different view of the business environment. Ms. Petitta of Chase, Ms. Newell of MBUSA (and me) indicated that in their work environment there was no indication of prejudice between the sexes and that usually the opinion is that “may the best man or woman win”. However, when asked whether the panel believed that the future held opportunities in the Auto Industry for women, all the panelists concurred that for bright imaginative women sky is the limit, but that proper preparation both educationally and experience wise is highly recommended if one is to survive the “New World”.
The women were also asked about how a successful woman balances family and work in order to be successful in both. The answers here included, have time to yourself, limit time on digital devices once with family, and learn to separate one from the other. These comments are forwarded to young women who receive scholarship funds from this organization in order to promote women. The very interesting aspect of the breakfast was that there were just as many male members of audience as female and many people present were OEM employees involved with diversity and how to best manage that aspect of business.
In all; this was a great experience for everyone, both for the members of the panel to share their life time experience hoping that their learning and mistakes can be a guide for younger generations following and for the audience who got an opportunity to see how different aspects of this vast business vertical can affect women differently.
Hats are off to the executive committee of this organization for planning this event.