The first IAG/Paint & Panel Women in Collision seminar took place at the IAG Research Centre in Sydney on 17 November. Around 45 people gathered to network and be inspired - we let men come too, because we're not sexist.
The Women in Collision awards, sponsored by IAG, are now in their fourth year. Initially the program was designed to highlight and recognise the pivotal roles that women play in this male-dominated industry. This year IAG wanted to expand the program to also help develop women, encourage networking and include more people than the winner's lunch that has taken place in previous years.
Stephen Palmer from IAG said: "IAG recognises diversity in all its forms, and are proud sponsors on the Women in Collision awards. There is no doubt the Panel Repair Industry would be one of the most male dominated areas of work in Australia. So, to be able to play a part in shinning a light on the important role women play and, indeed, excel at is a great privilege."
The day kicked off with all the women introducing themselves and briefly outlining their roles. Anthony Boddy, manager, motor operations at the IAG Research Centre gave a fascinating presentation about the work the research centre undertakes. After lunch it was time for the keynote speaker Olympic beach volleyball gold medallist Kerri Pottharst.
Pottharst took us through her journey to the Gold medal that included a horrific injury and numerous knee surgeries and suggested strategies that we can use to realise our dreams and ambitions. Just to prove that we can push through our comfort zones she asked for four volunteers. Pottharst then proceeded to unravel a package which contained a pile of broken glass and each of the volunteers walked over it.
The delegates split into two groups, one to take a tour of the research facility and find what goes on in the workshop, while the others formed groups to discuss how we might attract more women into the industry and the what the blockers are.
Suggestions about why women leave the industry included:
Lack of opportunity
No encouragement to grow
Being treated badly
Sexism from both employers and customers
Of course these issues aren't exclusive to women and lead men to leave the industry too. Our groups felt that industry mentoring and networking is vital to encourage women to thrive in the autobody repair industry. We're in the 21st century where so many women are incredibly knowledgeable about cars and the repair process and yet some customers still ask to speak to a man and doubt female capability.
How can we attract more women? Many of these suggestions can also be applied to just how we attract more people to consider careers in the industry, not just women.
More involvement and recognition, more networking with other women in the industry was a top suggestion - a double tick for our seminar day.
Flexible working and job sharing
Re-name roles to make them more attractive
Reach out to schools even primary schools
Educate men on women's roles and the benefits they bring to the industry
Last and by no means least Kerri Pottharst stayed to present our Women in Collision winners with their trophies, a signed copy of her book and an an I-CAR training course voucher. Over 90 women were nominated for this year's Women in Collision awards. To recognise the breadth of roles that women perform in the industry, this year there were three categories - owner/manager, administration and tradesperson/estimator. Last year's winners form the judging panel for this year's winners. We'll be profiling each of the winners in the January/February issue of Paint & Panel.
Lara Anastasi: Head painter at L&M Smash, Sydney
Perlita Puruto: Second year panel technician Workhorse Collision Repairs, Sydney
Corinne Verdile, parts manager and reception Wayne Phipps Smash Repairs, WA
Brittany Howchin, Thompson and Robinson Smash Repairs, reception, estimating, Wollongong, NSW
Kate Presnell, manager, Gary Presnell Bodyworks, TAS
Joanne Stavris, manager, Gow St Autobody Repair Centre, Sydney
Erin Fairman from IAME who has set up her own women in automotive group said: "The Women in Collision Seminar and Awards was a fantastic event to celebrate the achievements of women in our industry. Pistons & Pearls believe more recognition of women in automotive is essential in moving forward to an all inclusive industry and events such as this proves that the support and talent is out there."
Zoe Pottage from Capital S.M.A.R.T said: "Amazing, talented women , working together on some strategic initiatives to get more of us into the industry!"
Editor Sam Street said: "Confident, intelligent and knowledgeable describes everyone in the room. It was fantastic to see so much talent but we need more, much more. Women are the linchpin in so many automotive repair businesses, more recognition and empowerment of females in the workforce would continue to raise standards in the industry."
If you would like to join our Women in Collsion closed facebook (women only please) click here.