Written by Chasidy Rae Sisk
On Dec. 15-16, 2019, Women in Automotive (WIA) hosted its 2019 Winter Conference at the Omni Rancho Las Palmas Resort in Palm Springs, CA.
WIA Board Member Scotty Reiss shared, “The big topic of this winter’s Women in Automotive conference was empowerment: how we empower ourselves, how we support each other and how we see ourselves. [Our presenters] shared not only how they have achieved their success but also, how we can help other women to achieve theirs, and how we develop leaders for the future.”
“There was also a lot of discussion about how to develop Millennials into great team members, how to support each other by building a tribe, and how to empower people to do their best,” Reiss continued. “All the discussions on the main stage were supported in a series of workshops, so attendees could talk to speakers one on one and start to define how to implement the ideas they heard. People loved the speakers and topics! Most of the ideas went directly to the issues women are dealing with in their careers, so the ideas and workshops are a great way to refuel your career goals.”
WIA’s 2019 Winter Conference kicked off on Sunday, Dec. 15 with a Thought Leader Roundtable Networking Session, moderated by Tony Dupaquier, director of The Academy. Panelists included RepairPal’s Jill Trotta, Robin Wilson of SCP Agency, eMentorConnect’s Nancy Wolk, Julie Kimes from the ODaniel Automotive Group, Kathy Cunningham of Advanced Marketing Strategies, author Melissa Burrow, and Patricia Pidgeon from Spectrum Reach. Attendees then enjoyed an #IAmRemarkable interactive pre-conference networking session focused on empowering women and other underrepresented groups to celebrate their achievements, led by Google’s Lissette Gole.
On Sunday afternoon, Eliana Raggio, who served as the event emcee, welcomed attendees and introduced Thomais Zaremba, director of automotive for Google, who presented “Finding Athena: Current Female Leadership and Developing our Female Leaders of the Future.” Next, Candice Crane of Crane Automotive Resources, discussed “Preparing Your Teams for the Future of Retailing,” followed by “Need a Mentor? Swipe Left, Swipe Right!” with Nancy Wolk of eMentorConnect. WIA then presented Northwood University with a Women in Automotive Scholarship.
Northwood University’s Elgie Bright presented “Millennial Opportunity Seekers – Next Generation Leaders,” and Jill Ball and Jennifer Linder of ACV Auctions discussed “Work Life Balance: How to Excel in Your Career While Making It Home for Bedtime.” The Colors on Parade Scholarship was awarded before Brooke Skinner Ricketts of Cars.com talked to attendees about “Career Growth.” “Ensuring Dealership Growth & Stability in a Down Market” was presented by Dealerbuilt’s Michael Trasatti, and Lou Ann Hammond of Drivingthenation moderated a Trends Panel which featured Ford’s Sheryl Connelly and Alexander Edwards from Strategic Vision, Inc.
After the Lorraine Schultz Spirit of Leadership Award was presented, Burrow discussed “The Power of Accountability” and offered a book signing for her new book, “Chasing Bentley’s.” Following the day’s closing announcements, attendees enjoyed a cocktail reception and hot air balloon rides, hosted by ACV Auctions, as well as entertainment by Dakota Music.
The agenda on Monday, Dec. 16 began with a Sunrise Gentle Yoga and Meditation, led by Linda Webb of Amani Mind and Brenda Niedermaier of Mills Motors. Following breakfast and the event emcee’s welcome addresses, Trotta talked to attendees about “Creating Your Tribe,” and she was followed by Dealerware’s Courtney White who presented “From Transactions Economics to Customer Economics: What Retail Automotive Can Learn from Amazon to Drive Growth.”
The morning’s workshops included “Don’t Just Digitize, Humanize the Automotive Retail Experience” taught by Eric Schlesinger from ActivEngage, “Digital Dopamine: The Essential Ingredients to Create Marketing that Women will Crave” with April Rain of Fox Dealer, “Imposter Syndrome” presented by The Academy’s Laura Black, and “How to Use Technology to Make Your Employees Happier (and Retain Them)” from Erica Hansen of Conversica. Maria Espinoza and Joel Matteson from Dealer eProcess taught “A Cardi B guide to dominating digital at your dealership,” “How Personality Types Affect Change” was presented by Gabrielle Young of Mighty Distributing Systems of America, and automotiveMastermind’s Giorgia Favaretto-Illig discussed “Mentoring Mastermind.”
Moderated by Kerri Wise of TrueCar, a panel on “Culture is Key: Inspiring a Women Friendly Culture in Your Workplace” included panelists from Del Grande Dealer Group: Laurie Johnson, Elwira Wilczynska, Andrea Schulz and Joanne Burgherr.
Digital Airstrike’s Erica Sietsma presented “Creating a Better Dealership Experience for ALL- from Dealers Who’ve Done It,” “Recruiting in the New Age – How to Recruit and Hire More Women in a Male-Dominated Field” was presented by ACV Auctions’ Paige Masteller and Gina Maisano, and certified life coach Dara Moore lectured on “Breaking Out of the Box.” “Dealership Culture: Uncovering, Evolving, Resolving Bias” was presented by CDK Global’s Kathryn Kittel.
After lunch, a speed networking event was facilitated by Raggio and Wilson. Another panel discussion focused on dealers, entitled “Women Leading Women” was moderated by Eve Knudtsen from Knudtsen Chevrolet and included panelists Julie Kimes from ODaniel Automotive Group, Cherie Watters of O’Gara Coach Companies, Sandra Marchetti of Georgetown Kia, CarNation Canada, and Deanna Reynoles from Team Mazda El Cajon.
Following the presentation of the Keiser University Scholarship award, Upasna Sharma from Knorex shared her thoughts on “Cross-Channel Optimization,” before a WIA Board Fireside Chat and Honorable Awards Mentor with Reiss from A Girls Guide to Cars, Wise from TrueCar, and CDK Global, Inc.’s Kathy Gilbert. Paul Faletti, Jr. from NCM Associates presented “Empower your Employees and Increase Retention through Employee-Ownership and Diversity.”
After Skye Nguyen from NCM Associates, Inc. presented NCM’s Scholarship Award, “Building a Lasting Brand” was presented by Cunningham from Advanced Marketing Strategies, and Dr. Renee Matthews of MEGA LLC discussed the “Power of Intention.” WIA’s 2019 Winter Conference concluded with the emcee’s closing remarks.
“The event exceeded all our expectations!” Reiss said. “This is our second time in Palm Springs and the third event we’ve held in California, and each time, the enthusiasm is almost hard to contain. Women love to connect, socialize and learn in a stress-free, pressure-free environment; they love expanding their networks and discovering how their passions can build a career. The event is designed to elevate the industry by elevating the role of women in it. Because so many women are either the only woman in their department or one of only a few in the company, it can be hard to find a mentor or professional network; WIA provides not only that network and mentoring opportunity, but also educational opportunities that help women to build a career.”
WIA’s next conference will be held in Orlando, FL, on June 14-16. According to Reiss, WIA expects to “host 500+ women who work in automotive. We are just starting to plan this event but stay tuned for news on what will be a dynamic and impactful event!”
In addition to WIA’s two annual conferences and Women-Powered University continuing education, WIA is also preparing for a day of learning at the New York Auto Show, and the organization plans to participate in “What Drives Her” at the Chicago Auto Show on Feb. 7. Reiss shared, “This one-day program will feature speakers including Angela Zepeda, chief marketing officer of Hyundai, Jessica Egerton, chief marking officer of Cooper Tire and Brooke Skinner Ricketts, chief marketing officer of Cars.com. They will join other speakers to inspire women working in automotive in Chicago and beyond to see ways they can build a career in the automotive business.”