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The Independent Automotive Aftermarket Federation

Women of the Automotive Aftermarket celebrated

Date: Monday 08 March 2021

The theme for International Women's Day this year is Choose to Challenge, with the campaign encouraging individuals to challenge any form of inequality in order to drive change.

Many women are thriving across the entire automotive industry taking on more senior roles, at every stage of the supply chain.

Be yourself
After working in the automotive sector for over 30 years, Wendy Williamson, chief executive of the Independent Automotive Aftermarket Federation (IAAF), remains hugely passionate about the industry. She comments:

“I have come to know many people over the years throughout the sector and it is always a pleasure in talking and dealing with my members and business associates. It is a fascinating industry and one that is changing rapidly with the onset of technological developments in vehicles, including a good mix of familiarity and change.
“Years ago, I think there were less women working in the industry but today many women are making terrific progress from all parts of the sector, from garages, to factors, buying groups and suppliers.”

Williamson’s advice for the next generation of females entering the aftermarket is simple:

“Be yourself. Integrity, hard work and excellent communication skills are great attributes for women in business.”

Confidence not capability
As managing director for Ring Automotive, Theresa Spencer loves the variety her role brings and enjoys being able to make a difference in the sector.

She explains:

“There is a natural bias towards automotive being a male dominated sector and sometimes I think female leadership in commercial roles surprises people. However, running a business has common themes, whatever the industry, and provided you apply those themes with consistency and relevance, there is no reason why gender should make a difference.”
Spencer continues: “As a woman in business I think it’s important to stay true to yourself and your instincts, develop as much emotional intelligence as you can and use it every day, and push through your fear as most of the time it will be about confidence not capability.”

Change in the sector
Global category manager for commercial vehicles at TMD Friction, Sue McKay, feels attitudes towards women in the sector are changing, she explains:

“As more and more women feel empowered to take on roles that were predominantly male orientated, we are starting to see change in the sector. Women seem to have to work harder to prove they know their trade but being confident in your knowledge is key.”
“This industry is very exciting and with the environment a key influencer moving forward, it allows for new initiatives and innovative thinking.”

Diversity required
Hayley Pells owns and operates independent garage Avia Autos in South Wales. She is also an author in the automotive industry:

“I love the variety of work and the huge scope in my job. There really is something for every skill set within the sector and there is opportunity to transfer skills from one area to another. It really isn't an industry that you can get bored in!”
Pells adds: “Underrepresentation of women within the industry exists, but the talent gap will prompt proactive companies to use the opportunities that diversity presents to gain the edge, and therefore thrive in comparison to competition.
“There are still legacy training and funding gaps that apply to women in a different way to men. These gaps need to close as inequality is not inevitable. Not recognising what makes us different makes it impossible to allow those differences to be accepted. This is counterproductive to any organisation that seeks to be a leader of their field; it slows the ability to think of every solution to any given problem if you only have one type of brain and skillset applied to the challenge.”

Speak up
BM Catalysts marketing manager, Holly Brailsford, is proud to be a female in the automotive industry, commenting:

“I think the fact that men account for the greatest number of people working in automotive can create the impression that it’s an industry that’s not necessarily best suited to women, which simply isn’t true.

“My experience of working in the sector has always been really positive and you meet so many great people along the way. I think the relationships you form with people in the automotive aftermarket are what makes it so much more enjoyable. It’s like being part of a large community.”

She encourages more women to get into the automotive aftermarket citing “confidence in your own abilities, not being afraid to speak up and keeping on top of the latest news and trends with the market,” as some key attributes to succeed.

Gergana Donevska, international sales representative at BM Catalysts is thriving in a male-orientated environment. She explains:

“When it comes to being successful in business, gender doesn’t matter. I don't think there is a difference between women and men – it’s up to the individual to carve out their own success.”

International Women’s Day in 2021 is marked annually on 8th March and is a day to celebrate women’s achievements, raise awareness about women’s equality and lobby for accelerated gender parity.