EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the fifth of seven stories devoted to leading women in the auto industry. The series originally ran in the December 2020 print edition of Automotive News Canada. You can watch the pair of roundtable discussions here. And, you can read previously published digital versions of the stories here.
Initiatives aimed at encouraging girls to consider an automotive career should be a family affair, said Diane Reko, CEO of Reko International Group in Windsor, Ont.
“Quite often it’s the parents whose frame of mind we need to influence because they’re the ones that have grown up with the stereotypical thoughts of our industry,” Reko told the Automotive News Canada Leading Women Roundtable.
“If we can include the parents in the broader discussions in our recruitment efforts at a much younger age, I think that we probably have a better chance at making positive strides on the way we’re perceived.”
In the Windsor-Essex region, an organization called Build a Dream was founded in 2014 to encourage young women to consider careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) by offering career expos, workshops and hands-on activities. “Their parents are there with them at Build a Dream events taking them through, company by company and table by table, talking about career opportunities for their child,” said Shelley Fellows, chair of Automate Canada.
“They’re seeing role models. They’re able to ask questions. We’re demystifying it.”
Sarah Hindle, general manager of future retail at the Ontario-based dealership group Pfaff Automotive Partners, said demonstrating that the automotive business offers career opportunities outside of selling cars has been eye-opening for many high school students she has spoken with.
“If I can talk about somebody who started for me as a lot assistant at some point who is now managing a store or managing a department, there’s nothing better than that. They’re [thinking]: ‘There are so many things that I could do. I don’t have to sell cars. I don’t have to want to be a technician. ... Giving them that full view of all of the opportunities is very important from a young age.’”