Finalists in the Women in Smash awards gathered in Sydney's exclusive suburb of Vaulcluse on Friday 25 November.
Petrina White from Cramp Bros in Tasmania, Brenda Iversen from Mark McHugh's Bodyworks in Queensland, Dianne Ruggeri from Europanels in Queensland and Lauren Neal from David Hand Smash Repairs in ACT arrived at a sunny Sydney beach to receive their trophies, enjoy lunch and network.
This is the third year of the Women in Smash programme, sponsored by IAG insurance. The first overall winner from 2014 Roslyn Anderson from Wales Truck Repairs, NSW was there to present the winner's trophy to Dianne Ruggeri. Each year the previous winners choose that year's finalists and vote for the overall winner.
As well as the Paint & Panel team, IAG's Stephen Palmer, senior manager of industry development and Michelle Chaperon, senior manager corporate communications were there to enjoy the occasion of recognising these inspiring women, and to discuss taking the Women in Smash programme to the next level.
You can read all about Ruggeri in her Women in Smash profile to see how her attitude towards training and professionalism and her involvement with the MTA are just a couple of the virtues of this influential and charming woman. "Friday's event was wonderful. The location could not have been nicer." Ruggeri said.
"I found it a very relaxing and friendly occasion meeting with the other finalists and IAG and Paint & Panel's staff.
It is always good to make new contacts and share knowledge with other panel shop members.
"I was surprised and delighted to be the overall winner. I can't thank Paint & Panel and IAG enough for the recognition you gave us ladies in the industry."
As well as discussing a Women in Collision seminar for late next year and the topics which would be useful to discuss there, it was agreed that next year's finalists will all win some career development training.
Iversen suggested that it would be great to recognise and develop more younger women next year as only two out of the six finalists were in their twenties.
"What an honour to be nominated for the WISR Award and to spend the afternoon with other inspirational women in our industry. It is great that we now have a network where us women can openly and honestly discuss the triumphs and challenges we face daily," Iversen said.
22-year-old Lauren Neil talked about the stresses of running the shop while the boss is away and of her ambitions to move into the custom arena at some point in the future.
"I was proud to be a finalist in women in smash and now as a newly qualified spraypainter, I want young women not to feel held back in challenging themselves and trying any industry they may be interested in. I want them to be welcomed in a male dominated industry, especially in apprenticeships, and see what great opportunities our trade has to offer, whilst bringing in new dynamics and skills themselves," Neil said.
Petrina White also enjoyed the day: "Thank you for the opportunity to be amongst so many talented and amazing women. I was honoured to be selected as a finalist. What a wonderful way to spend a Friday afternoon. Our industry is diverse and challenging and the networking from these events always has benefits. I’d love to see more of them as we all have something to offer," she said.
Entries for the 2017 Women in Collision programme will open in January.