WIA Conference 2024: A Transformative Experience

WIA Conference 2024: A Transformative Experience

The event was truly empowering, leaving us with numerous new connections and plans for future collaborations.

When I first registered for the Women In Automotive (WIA) conference, I was unsure what to expect. My past experiences at automotive conventions were focused on working vendor booths, where the primary goal was to meet as many dealers as possible and secure signed contracts. I entered with a similar mindset, also aiming to explore mentorship opportunities and spread my company’s message. However, I quickly realized how shortsighted this approach was from the first day.

This convention was unlike any other I had attended. There was camaraderie, authenticity and sincerity at every table. Initiating conversations with complete strangers was neither awkward nor difficult. The focus was intensely on community and making everyone feel welcome. There was not the usual fierce competition between vendors vying for dealers’ attention. Instead, the atmosphere was collaborative, inclusive and dedicated to growth —both personal and professional.

The breakout sessions offered tracks in Leadership, Marketing, Women in the Workplace and Client Experience. The speakers, predominantly women with decades of automotive industry experience, shared valuable insights and advice through personal stories and experiences that had propelled them to their current leadership positions. These were strong, intelligent and tenacious women who had laid the groundwork for others to follow in their footsteps — pioneers who had entered a male-dominated industry and thrived. They embraced their fears and used them to strengthen their resolve and perseverance. These women were now extending their hands to help pull others up alongside them.

This experience allowed me to interact with dozens of women at various stages of their careers, from retail and service to manufacturing and vendor partners. Regardless of their background, everyone was focused on how best to develop our skills, networks, and communities. There was not a rush to exploit anyone’s time to close a deal; instead, it was about genuine engagement and mutual support.

Eliana Raggio shone as a vivacious and warm emcee, setting the tone for the conference with her energy and enthusiasm. Breakout sessions were informative and insightful, with Kathy Gilbert emphasizing the importance of personal branding to help you drive your company’s success. Cheryl Lopez inspired attendees by sharing her story of leaving a table that did not serve her for one that did, highlighting the significance of self-worth and determination. Laura Murphy’s keynote exemplified resilience and the power of self-compassion encouraging attendees to embrace their remarkableness, while Jennifer Rafael and Sandra Liem’s fireside chat explored the power of diversity and innovation driven by consistency, confidence and commitment.

The event was truly empowering, leaving us with numerous new connections and plans for future collaborations. We booked demos, scheduled coffee meetings and arranged dinners for the next conference. It was the most genuine and authentic networking experience I have ever had, setting a new standard for professional growth and support within the industry.

Spotlight on Carla Cosenzi: A Leader in Diversity

Carla Cosenzi, president of TommyCar Auto Group, exemplifies the benefits of embracing diversity and inclusion in the automotive industry. While the average dealership employs only 20% women, TommyCar Auto Group boasts a remarkable 43% female workforce across all levels and departments, including management and service.

Cosenzi’s commitment to creating an inclusive environment has not only enhanced the company’s internal culture but has also driven business success by attracting and retaining top talent. Her leadership provides a model for other dealerships striving to foster gender diversity and empower women in their organizations.

Why You Should Support WIA

Sponsoring Women In Automotive and sending teams to their events is not just a gesture of support; it is a strategic investment in the future of the automotive industry. Here are several compelling reasons why dealerships, vendors and manufacturers should actively engage with WIA:

1. Enhancing Diversity and Inclusion:

   – Driving Innovation: Diverse teams bring varied perspectives, fostering innovation and creativity. By supporting WIA, companies can help build a more inclusive industry, leading to more innovative solutions and products.

   – Attracting Talent: Sponsorship demonstrates a commitment to gender diversity, making companies more attractive to top talent who value inclusive workplaces.

2. Addressing Trust Issues:

   – Building Trust: With 43% of female consumers not trusting the automotive industry, sponsoring WIA helps address these trust issues by showing a commitment to understanding and meeting the needs of women.

3. Professional Development:

   – Skill Building: WIA conferences and events offer high-quality professional development opportunities, with sessions on leadership, marketing, client experience and more. This training helps employees at all levels develop crucial skills.

   – Mentorship Opportunities: Employees can connect with seasoned professionals who can provide guidance and mentorship, accelerating their career growth.

4. Networking and Relationship Building:

   – Expanding Networks: Attendees can build valuable connections with peers, industry leaders and potential clients, leading to new business opportunities and partnerships.

   – Collaboration: The collaborative environment at WIA events fosters partnerships and alliances that can drive business success.

5. Leveraging Market Influence:

   – Target Audience: With 62% of car buyers being women and 85% of car buying decisions influenced by women, understanding and engaging this demographic is crucial for business success.

6. Boosting Employee Morale and Retention:

   – Empowerment: Supporting WIA and sending employees to their events empowers them, showing that their company values their growth and success.

   – Loyalty: Employees who feel supported and invested in are more likely to stay with their company, reducing turnover and retaining top talent.

7. Corporate Social Responsibility:

   – Positive Branding: Sponsoring WIA enhances a company’s reputation as a socially responsible organization committed to diversity and inclusion.

   – Community Impact: Supporting initiatives that empower women contributes positively to the broader community, fostering a more equitable industry.

8. Strategic Business Benefits:

   – Market Insight: Engaging with WIA provides insights into emerging trends and best practices in the industry, helping companies stay competitive.

   – Customer Relations: Demonstrating a commitment to diversity can strengthen relationships with customers who value and support inclusive practices.

The WIA Conference 2024 was a powerful reminder of the impact of community, mentorship and the collective advancement of women in the automotive industry. It broke away from the traditional, transactional nature of automotive conventions, creating a space focused on genuine connection and growth. This transformative experience underscored the importance of fostering an inclusive and supportive environment.

For dealerships, vendors and manufacturers, sponsoring Women In Automotive and sending their teams to these events is a strategic move that offers substantial benefits. By investing in WIA, companies contribute to a more inclusive and innovative industry while enhancing their own growth and success. This is an opportunity to lead by example, fostering a workplace culture that values diversity, supports professional development and drives the future of the automotive industry forward.

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