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Each year, International Women’s Day (IWD) serves to remind everyone of the necessity for a gender balanced society – and in particular – gender balanced workplaces.

While the automotive Industry still has a long way to go before achieving this balance, Women in Automotive (WinA) aims to stand as a starting point for this change.

One of the ways WinA strives to ensure gender parity in the automotive industry is through hosting events such as this year’s Women in Automotive International Women’s Day Breakfast.

This year’s WinA IWD event featured a Motorsports theme, starring a panel of some of the finest talent currently gracing the industry, including:

- Jessica Dane (COO and Co-Owner of Triple Eight Race Engineering and Chair of Australian Women in Motorsport)

- Molly Taylor (Australian Rally Champion, and TCR driver)

- Kate Peck (RPM Co-Host and Network 10 reporter).

With tickets selling out three weeks in advance, the industry response to the event has been fantastic!

Each panellist represented a different career path or opportunity within Motorsports, allowing for the panel discussion to cover a vast range of topics; from what inspired or guided their choice to follow the careers they’ve chosen, to what more needs to be done to encourage and support women within the industry. In a case study conducted by the Australian government’s Workplace Gender Equality Agency, the findings show that women aren’t overly keen to apply for roles in this field due to a lack of life balance, an unattractive work environment and a perceived inability to further advance in their careers. The panellists were quick to discuss these perceptions, and how they align with or contradict their own experiences.

When asked about the financial benefits of gender balanced workplaces, Kate Peck commented, “(Who) wouldn’t want to make an extra 21% more profit? Get the chicks involved! No brainer.” Kate’s comment was in reference to the statistics found in WinA’s smart business guidebook, How to Attract, Recruit, and Retain Women in the Australian Automotive Industry, available for free download at womeninautomotive.com.au.

Speaking to the success of the event, WinA Manager Dr. Imogen Reid commented, “This year’s International Women’s Day theme ‘Each for Equal’ resonates with the work of Women in Automotive, where we seek to galvanise both men and women to address gender discrepancies and support women working in the automotive industry.

We received an overwhelming response to our recent IWD event, with tickets selling out three weeks in advance. This just highlights the incredible appetite by industry to engage and work towards improving the gender imbalance that exists across the industry.

Women in Automotive is going from strength to strength – evidenced by our fast-growing membership base and broad industry support.”

Working in collaboration with WinA, the IWD Breakfast also served as the relaunch of Motorsport Australia’s Girls on Track program, derived from the successful Dare to be Different initiative first launched in Europe. Girls on Track was created to inspire young women to consider a career in engineering, technology and other motorsport-related professions. Coincidentally, each of the WinA IWD Breakfast panellists are also ambassadors for Girls on Track. “I’m lucky enough to have been exposed from a young age and that was what seeded my passion, but I’ve had to prove that I deserve to be there.” Jessica Dane commented when discussing the Girls on Track initiative.

VACC CEO Geoff Gwilym also praised the event, commenting, “The importance of celebrating International Women’s Day is ever present, especially in the more traditional trades that have typically attracted men. Women in Automotive is one of the leading advocacy groups for women in the industry, and VACC holds the work of Women in Automotive very highly. We are very proud of the industry response to this event in particular and it was highly encouraging to see the room jam packed with guests, eager to hear from these industry leaders.”

If you would like to get involved with or learn more about Women in Automotive, you can sign up to become a WinA member for free at womeninautomotive.com.au.

To keep up with the latest WinA event, news, resources, and opportunities, make sure to follow along on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram.

Each month, we are going to interview one of our members as our WinA member of the month. These interviews intend to not only raise the profile of the member in question, but to also serve as an interest piece and inspiration for others. Know someone who should be interviewed, or interested in being interviewed yourself? Make sure to email us at info@womeninautomotive.com.au with 'Member of the Month' in the subject line!

So, without further ado, our December WinA member of the month is Denise McMaster!

Prior to Denise’s current work as a life coach for business owners in the automotive industry, Denise owned and operated a Midas store in Hobart for over 8 years! Having come into the business with no prior automotive experience, the jump was, in Denise’s own words, "quite the learning curve". Armed with her bachelor’s degree in accounting/finance, a graduate diploma in human resource management, and a certificate in life coaching and emotional freedom technique, Denise is constantly reinventing herself and her work, which is why we were so excited to chat with her!

Tell us a bit about your current role or involvement in the automotive industry.

Denise: I still work part time at Midas, which I enjoy. I do mostly the same work but its not my money I’m dealing with anymore – which I like! However, my main work now is as a life coach. I was always interested in life coaching and wanted to intertwine it into my work as a business owner and on a personal growth level. I love helping others become more confident in themselves and their roles.

What was your first professional experience within the automotive industry?

Denise: My husband (at the time) and I owned a business across the road from Midas, so when we sold that, we wanted to find another business to buy. That’s when we thought of Midas. I didn’t even know cars had oil filters, but I was an accounting major so my main interest was in the business side it, and I was ready to learn all that I could about the rest.

Do you think you have experienced challenges within the industry that your male counterparts wouldn’t need to experience?

Denise: Some customers refused to talk to me when they needed to book their cars in – they want to talk directly to the boss, which was a mechanic in their minds – a male mechanic. They’d refuse to accept that I was the boss, and that I was more than capable to help them. However, women who came into the store often had a face of reassurance when they saw me, which was motivating. I had come from a position of having to learn the lingo myself, so passing it on to others in the same boat – or car – was something I enjoyed. I found that a main issue in the shop was the ability to talk to customers and explain what was happening to their cars in terms and language that was easy to understand or on a ‘beginner level’ if you will, not language filled with jargon. Because of this, I ran a women’s night at the shop. Each guest received a handout I had made using that same easy to read language, which I had the mechanics check it was technically correct. The event made our existing customers more confident to come back into the shop.

What is your biggest achievement within the automotive industry, personal or professional?

Denise: At one point we were ranked as the 7th best store in the Midas network and we were the only branch at the time that was run by a woman. I also enjoyed being on the board of the TACC (the Tasmanian branch of the Victorian Automobile Chamber of Commerce - VACC). I loved being able to look into the operation and opportunities of the TAFE and apprentice courses, always seeing how we could provide more opportunities and improve.

Do you have a favourite resource as a woman working in the automotive industry? Maybe a book, event, organization, mentor, or online platform?

Denise: A book – called Cars for Dummies – sounds basic but it was good for me and sometimes we’d show pages to customers as well. Another book I really enjoyed was – something like ‘auto repairs for women’ – I can’t quite remember the title, but the actual book was amazing.

Who is your inspiration as a female in automotive?

Denise: The new owner of the Midas store I once owned – Chris Bird. He has really been a great person to work with.

Finally, what is the best piece of advice that you have received or that you could give to another woman working in the automotive industry?

Denise: Find the good things. There will be negative encounters (like a customer not believing that you’re the boss), but there will be others who will leave only good and positive encounters – those are the ones you need to focus on.

If you would like to find out more about Denise's life coaching business, head to https://www.dmtapping.com/