When I first heard there was going to be a Women in Automotive conference, my interest was piqued. I know there are more women than ever before gaining ground in the industry, and I wanted to get hear the insights first hand.
I did a little research and found the WIA Board Partners. And what I learned is that these 5 women are not only leaders in the industry, but also leaders and a voice for women. I want to thank Christy Roman, Subi Ghosh, Joni Stuker, Jody DeVere, and Kathy Gilbert for having the foresight to realize not only the impact women have on this industry, but also the potential.
I was sold and I knew I had to be at this historic event.
Being part of something new is always exciting. You feel like an insider with inside information.
But being part of something groundbreaking is truly exhilarating. And that is how I would describe the Inaugural Women in Automotive conference.
I am new-ish to the industry and was fully aware as I made my head-first dive into this that it is a male dominated industry. I toughened up (as much as I could) and prepared myself for change.
What WIA allowed me to realize is that as a woman, I am uniquely qualified for this industry--girly-ness and all! I was told to embrace who I was and stop trying to accommodate.
Stop being the notetaker! (Unless you are the secretary. Then you should definitely take notes!)
These statements--although seemingly simple--were incredibly powerful and delivered by powerful women.
I originally tried to write an overview of my experience, but that was way too long--resembling a novella. So, here are the 4 vignettes of my time that I will take away from this trailblazing conference.
#1: The Sea of Women
If you are a woman in the industry, you know what it feels like to constantly walk into a room of men. Not that is is awful, but when you do see a woman, you are like “Yaass, Sister--I’m not the only one!”
Walking into the ornate Grand Ballroom, I was overwhelmed by the sheer number of intelligent, hardworking, successful women. And these women were eager to talk, share, motivate, and mentor.
That, in and of itself, was pure awesomeness.
#2: The Speakers
I have been to many conferences and I cannot even begin to count the number of keynote speakers I have been subjected to. Some have been entertaining, and some have made me wish for an act of God to make it stop.
These women were, by far, some of the most articulate, poised, and prepared speakers I have heard in quite some time. Their subjects were relevant and I was taking notes furiously.
Tammy Darvish, Allison Estes, and Julie Staub kicked things off on Wednesday with three very different, engaging and powerful messages. Tammy focused on surrounding yourself with uncommon people who have common goals. Allison's presentation highlighted why the dealership experience is so important and included exciting and scary data (depending on your belief of the importance of treating customers well). Finally, Julie Staub ended the first general session talking about the different generations purchasing cars, and why millennials are important not only as purchasers, but as employees.
Powerful, intelligent women. Engaging presentations.
And this was just the start.
The Breakout Sessions were equally as powerful. The panel discussions allowed me to hear from the people in the trenches everyday. There were practical questions, honest answers, and genuine banter.
One of my personal favorites was when Lisa Copeland, Managing Partner, Fiat Alfa Romeo of Austin, spoke of her success and brought her mental toughness coach with her. Lisa and Steve Siebold engaged in this beautiful joint storytelling where Steve broke apart one of Lisa’s success stories and highlighted the actions that are replicable. When they finished, I was ready to take over the world! (or at least my niche of the industry).
#3: How our language was redefined.
I am just going to list the words that were used to describe the women in the industry. These words are powerful, empowering, and just plain brilliant:
Yes, please. All of the above.
#4: Work Hard/Play Hard:
This industry is not easy. There are long hours, stress, and politics involved in everyday life. So it is nice to have a moment to enjoy life and the people around you.
Which is what we definitely did. It all kicked off on Tuesday night with a cocktail party at Ember sponsored by TrueCar. The place was filled with music, laughter, and extraordinary food and drinks.
Wednesday night we were surprised with a live concert from none other than the Jersey Boys! ALLY sponsored that event and created the unique purple drinks:)
Finally, on Thursday we were entranced by Jade Simmons, a motivational speaker and concert pianist. Her talent, humor, and spunk were energizing and empowering. And I definitely left with a signed book.
SiSTeR Technologies sponsored free makeovers and hair stylists to make you feel beautiful. After your makeover, you could head over to get a free headshot so your online presence can look as professional as possible. (No more car selfies:) Thank you PenFed Credit Union.
PS--It is not vapid or conceited to care about these things! Caring about your outward appearance (but not making it your worth) is important, too. And the new look, for me, was a definite bonus!
So, for the first time in a long time, I can truly say that it was worth being out of the office for a few days to not only experience this event, but take part in history. At the risk of sounding dramatic, I know that this event changed me in positive and impactful ways.
Women need to support each other in this industry.
Powerful Words = Powerful Actions
WIA will be even bigger and better next year. Make sure you register as soon as it is announced. That means you, too, MEN!