Auto Service World
Feature   June 23, 2014   by

Not a mans world anymore

Times are changing for women in the automotive world, attendees told at AIA Canadas first-ever Womens Leadership Conference.





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The clear message at AIA Canada’s first-ever Women’s Leadership Conference in Niagara Falls, Ont. was that women have an important role to play in the automotive industry in Canada.

More than 90 women from across the automotive industry attended the two-day conference last week, which featured several notable guest speakers, a panel discussion, and a trade show.

The event, billed as an opportunity for women in the industry to network and share their professional experiences, opened with a video message of encouragement from the federal Minister of Transport, Lisa Raitt.

“Transportation is not a man’s world anymore,” Raitt said. “It has been mostly a man’s world for a very long period of time. But times are changing.”

Raitt, who is the first woman to serve as Minister of Transport, spoke of her experiences in professions dominated by men, particularly as an executive with the Toronto Port Authority before she became an MP. She was the first woman to be named Toronto’s harbour master.

Margot Micallef, founder and president of Oliver Capital Partners Inc., followed Raitt’s address and spoke about “success as a journey” and how mentorship can help someone survive life’s “free-fall moments.”

Susan Hitchon, from Schrader International,moderated a panel discussion with women in leadership positions in the automotive industry with open and often frank conversations on everything from professional experiences to tips for success.

The keynote speaker was Dianne Craig, president and CEO of Ford Motor Company of Canada. She spoke on the importance of leadership both in times of crisis and success, using the financial challenges and turn-around of Ford over the past decade as a benchmark.

The afternoon was devoted to a “Hat Shop” trade show that focused on the many hats career women wear. Exhibitors gave 10-minute mini information sessions on subjects that included time management, health and wellness, finances, and personal style coaching.

Kelly Williams of Kelly’s Garage gave a mini car clinic at her booth, quizzing attendees on the importance of regular maintenance.

“I’m used to having all-women audiences at my car clinics, but there was a completely different dynamic at the conference. It was a great opportunity to connect with other women in the industry to share experiences and also to network.”

The day’s events were closed by an emotional and inspirational speech by Amanda Lindhout, author of New York Times bestseller A House in the Sky, and founder of the Global Enrichment Foundation,who told her harrowing tale of being kidnapped and held hostage in Somalia for 460 days.

AIA chairman Robert Pitt was the only male in attendance.

“This conference was about the contribution that women in this industry have made to its success today and more importantly to its future success and stability,” said Pitt.

Due to the overwhelmingly positive response from both attendees and presenters, AIA Canada has already begun drafting plans for next year’s Women’s Leadership Conference.