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Women Driven

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Todd Bourgon is Executive Director for the Motor Vehicle Retailers of Ontario, an association representing over 1,000 new car dealers in Ontario. You can reach him at [email protected]. Photo MVRO

Championing female opportunities and awareness in the automotive industry.

For decades, the automotive industry was seen as a male dominated profession. Yet over the last 25 years, we’ve really started to see things change. More women have been joining the ranks and taking on a whole range of roles and responsibilities. And initiatives like Women Driven are helping females maximize their opportunities in this vibrant and ever-evolving industry.

The brainchild of Susan Gubasta, the first ever female President of the Motor Vehicle Retailers of Ontario (MVRO), Women Driven has grown from an on-site event at the Canadian International AutoShow (CIAS), to a fully-fledged regional program that promotes career opportunities for women in the industry, as well as providing networking, on-site workshops, peer recognition and mentorship initiatives. Susan’s original objective was to make sure that we spoke to all levels of industry—not just executives. That meant every person working in every facet of our industry that makes a difference in terms of what they contribute. From someone handling administrative functions, to those turning wrenches or, the individual that has their name on the outside of the building—all are welcomed equally.

Women Driven has become a huge success, spreading awareness and opportunity for females in the automotive industry. Photo MVRO

Growing awareness

With any initiative, having a long-term strategy is essential for it to flourish. MVRO’s approach has been to develop a committee that was focused on strategic objectives of growing awareness regarding the opportunities for females in the automotive sector and provide meaningful workshop environments that could help benefit people’s personal and professional growth.

In addition to spreading awareness and opportunity, Women Driven also recognizes top performers in the industry. The annual Women Driven Leadership Awards showcase the accomplishments of these top performers, providing them with an opportunity to share that recognition with their peers and the entire industry. Every year we send out a notice for people to nominate their peers [for these awards] that are then presented to the Women Driven committee for review. And, each year, we pick five individuals, and the awards are presented in person at our Automotive Conference and Expo in Niagara Falls.

Women Driven has also developed its own mentorship program. This is designed for those who are looking for a mentor to progress through the automotive industry or grow in their current position. We feel that by having female mentors available for women who are either considering joining or are already actively involved in our industry, would provide an opportunity for the automotive sector to demonstrate that it offers great career options. And, let’s be honest, not all of us have the answers for everything, which is why it’s always great to have someone that you can bounce ideas off and who can give truly objective feedback.

Male involvement

Women Driven also encourages men to get involved, and champion their female colleagues. Over the last couple of years, we’ve seen more and more men are coming to these events and supporting women in their organizations, creating a win-win opportunity for teams in dealerships and automotive businesses across the industry.

For 2024, Women Driven is hosting five events across Ontario, in Barrie, London, Ottawa, Sudbury and Toronto. The Barrie event kicks things off and will take place on May 23 at the Automotive Business School of Canada.

We welcome anyone that wants to get involved, whether they’re on the retail side, the supplier side, or the OEM side of the industry. They can reach out to Liz Kearney ([email protected]) and we will connect them to the right people internally.

 

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