Feeling Inspired: What I learned at this year’s Women in Automotive Winter Conference
Recently, I had the opportunity to attend the Women in Automotive Winter Conference. Researching and providing insights to women in automotive has been a big focus for our team, so I was excited to have the opportunity to speak directly with women in the industry about our latest findings. The conference delivered in this regard, but I left feeling really inspired by the career advice that was offered by the many speakers and panelists.
Here are some of the insights I found most valuable:
Recognize Where Gender Inequality Begins. Google’s Thomais Zaremba kicked off the conference with some really powerful stats. Most notably, that when it comes to gender equality we have a LONG way to go — 108 years to be exacti. So how exactly did we get so far behind? As she explained, a lot of this starts with what we are given to play with as young children. Boys are often given toys to learn to problem solve and be adventurous — building blocks, trucks or hero action figures. Girls tend to get toys to teach them to be nurturing, gentile, refined, quiet and beautiful — baby dolls, tea sets or princesses. Many gender stereotypes continue into our adolescence, in that parents tend to permit their sons while protecting their daughters. Young girls are often encouraged to “play it safe, don’t be too assertive or show too much emotion.”
Fast forward to adulthood and it’s no surprise that women are underrepresented in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)-related jobs.ii Many women in their careers tend to “play it safe” by holding themselves back on speaking up or waiting for perfection before applying for that big role. By understanding that these tendencies may exist within us and where they come from, we can begin to break down these stereotypes and behaviors — both for ourselves and for our daughters.
Be an Ally for Yourself. “I was the ONLY woman in the room.” This is something I heard over and over at the conference. Many of these women found success in these situations by finding their confidence, speaking up, raise your hand, take the opportunity and continue to do the stuff that scares you. It is also important to negotiate the things that matter to you. Do your homework and in the words of Kathy Gilbert from CDK Global, “have your elevator pitch ready” when that next big opportunity presents itself.
Be an Ally for Other Women. From ME to WE — this is your role in the movement. It begins by standing up for yourself to pave the way for other women. As women, it’s important to stick together and advocate for your female employees and coworkers.
The Importance of Having Mentors - Nearly every leader presenting at the conference spoke about the importance of having a mentor and how this contributed to their success. It’s important to not only find a mentor but to also make time for your mentor. A good mentor will help hold you accountable to your goals and provide you with knowledge and advice when you need it most.
I also learned that there are many kinds of mentors. Chances are that you’ve already had many throughout your career. Outside of formal mentors, there are silent mentors, those that you admire from afar. There are also mentors that have become your sponsors, actively championing your cause to others. So, do you have a mentor? If not, don’t be afraid to ask — 97 percent of women would say “yes” if you askediii.
Hold Yourself Accountable. If you’re lucky to have a mentor, you may already have someone to help hold you accountable to your goals. However, it is important that you also hold yourself accountable. Create a professional and personal mission statement for yourself so you have something definitive to work towards and hold yourself accountable to. According to Melissa Burrow, author of Chasing Bentleys: The Power of Accountability in Achieving Your Goals, “only after we define success for ourselves can we actually achieve.”
Find the Work-Life Balance That Works for YOU. As women, we wear many hats — employee, coworker, wife, mother. So, how do we balance it all? As a full-time working mom of two, this is a big one for me. Some of the best advice I heard at the conference was that when it comes to work-life balance, it’s important to do what works for YOU. Don’t base it off of what works for others or what the perfect situation should be. Have the courage to say “No” or to say that you have to leave right at 5 to get to that soccer practice or school play. Lastly, whether your balance is at home or at work, it’s important to always be present. Be the best YOU you can be.
i Global Gender Gap Report 2018, World Economic Forum: http://reports.weforum.org/global-gender-gap-report-2018/
ii Women in STEM Fields, Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Women_in_STEM_fields
iii Stat reported by Jill Trotta, VP/GM RepairPal Express