CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misidentified Todd Bourgon. He is the executive director of TADA.
The inaugural WomenDriven event designed to attract women to the automotive sector confirms the need to step up industry efforts to bolster its female ranks, say organizers.
“We need to dig down deep and figure out how we can expand the [WomenDriven] brand and start educating women [about the business],” said Susan Gubasta, who spearheaded the sold-out event, which drew more than 350 people Thursday night in Toronto.
Held in conjunction with the 2020 Canadian International AutoShow (CIAS), attendees had to bring a woman who did not work in the industry – a requirement that will be extended to future events, said Gubasta, CIAS president and CEO of Mississauga Toyota.
“Any WomenDriven events that we hold moving forward, to [attend] you have to bring somebody from outside the industry to talk to each other. We need to get fresh new faces,” said Gubasta, who was also the first woman to serve as president of Ontario’s Trillium Automobile Dealers Association (TADA)
The Canadian Automobile Dealers’ Association estimated that in 2018, men made up 78 per cent of the dealer workforce, while only about five per cent of dealer principals were women.
Meanwhile, a workforce study commissioned by TADA found that just 13 per cent of all salespeople were women in 2018, a one-point increase over 2016.
The event featured a fashion show with an automotive theme. Nineteen female and male “models” who worked in different facets of the industry sported designer clothes as a moderator shared details on how they launched their careers.
Among the models were TADA Executive Director Todd Bourgon and Automotive News Canada writer Stephanie Wallcraft, who is also president of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada.
Bourgon said the WomenDriven initiative was long overdue.
“We should always be celebrating opportunities in our industry,” he said. “Certainly, where we’re really underdeveloped is women in our industry. We have somebody, Susan Gubasta, who is absolutely the right person to bring this to the forefront.”
The event drew support from “manufacturers, vendors, dealerships and usually that’s not the model we get to experience,” he said. “This is not the last time you will see this event happen and nor should it be.”
Wallcraft said the event spoke to the need for change in a male-dominated industry.
“We need strong, smart, driven women in this industry to bring different voices to the table,” she said. “It’s a different world. We’re selling cars to all sorts of people, and the more diversity you can bring to the table in that process the more successful the industry will be as a whole.”