“You need people in your corner to tell you, ‘You’ve got this.’ And pick you back up again.”—Denise Chudy, Contact at Once!
On March 29, women from all across the automotive industry gathered at the Women and Automotive Conference to share their struggles, triumphs, and wisdom. All were welcome – competition and title were left at the door. There was an obvious buzz of energy and empowerment throughout the room from the attendees. The Women and Automotive Conference is a space for women to come together, share knowledge and build relationships.
Throughout the day there were numerous speakers and panels with powerful women across the industry. They shared experiences, offered tips for succeeding in your career and how to stand out in the ever-evolving auto industry. We broke down the day into three topics to summarize some key takeaways.
1. Women have to support other women
One of the best ways for women to succeed is through the support of others. If we don’t support each other than we may not have the courage to push boundaries and break stereotypes. It’s easier to understand what someone is going through when you experience it yourself, and reaching out and supporting one another is a big step toward progress.
A general concensus throughout the presentations is that encouraging and supporting young women at an early age can enhance their chance of getting into male-dominated fields like the automotive industry. What can you do? Recommend another women for a job or promotion, and encourage a young female colleague to think about a leadership position.
2. Be a mentor or a mentee
How do you engage with what it really means to be supportive? Become a mentor or a mentee. This was a huge topic throughout the day because it all came down to the core value of the conference: leadership. It is all about building relationships, being honest (tell them what you are looking for, what you expect and why you appreciate their time) and being vulnerable in order to get the most out of a mentorship.
Being a good mentor requires a good session with no distractions. It’s a time to forget who holds a higher title and come down to the same level. Put yourself in their shoes, offer your experience and knowledge. “It’s best to focus on positive encouragement,” said Jill Hadfield, TRADER Corporation, who moderated the mentorship panel.
But how can you go about picking the right mentor? Think of your strengths and weaknesses, what gaps do you need to fill and where do you want to go in your career? “This may require different mentors at different stages of your life,” said Zahira Khan, GM Financial Canada. Take their feedback and apply it to your work. This could mean taking action or simply changing the way you think.
3. We have come a long way but there’s still a long way to go
“It hasn’t progressed enough. It’s changing but it’s way too slow.”—Allison Woodley, Honda of Canada Manufacturing
The amount of women in the automotive industry is certainly greater than in the past but it’s not enough. “Opportunities are at the other end of your discomfort,” said Klaris Kovacs, TRADER Corporation. It’s events and forums like these that can encourage women to step outside their comfort zone and inspire them to be a part of change. Women may be wary about entering a certain field, whether it be because they feel judged or looked down on. We need to encourage them to overcome that discomfort in order to find new career opportunities.
“Millennials will lay the groundwork for change in the future,” said Woodley onstage during the panel on modern leadership practices. “You have to slightly change your perception when interacting with millennials. Knowing how to approach them effectively can have a better impact. They are online, on social media, in classrooms—that’s where you need to be.”
Here at TRADER Corporation we were honoured to be a part of an event that is about empowering change and bringing together women in the automotive industry. We hope to see even more faces—familiar and new—next year!