Hearing from the industry’s most inspiring women was one of our highlights from the Inspiring Automotive Women Awards Ceremony, which took place on 3rd October at London’s prestigious RAC Club.
Paula Cooper, Director of ConsumerOne Toyota (GB) Plc, was named the overall Inspiring Automotive Woman of the year, whilst Le Etta Pearce, CEO of Dealer Auction Ltd, and Diane Mulholland, Director of Enterprise Holdings Scotland & Northern Ireland, were named as Highly Commended Winners. Georgina Slack, Specialist Technician at JCT600 Brooklands Ferrari/Maserati was named a Trailblazer award winner. They were all kind enough to take part in an informal chat, hosted by the UK Automotive 30% Club founder, Julia Muir.
A common theme amongst the winners was the sense of surprise and pride at being nominated, and, later, winning. “It came as a complete surprise to me. I’m so proud of Toyota, the company I work for, and I really appreciate the opportunities the company has given me’ says Paula. Le Etta feels the same about her co-workers at Dealer Auction: ‘It’s a privilege to work with incredible people in the business and every day to try harder and do better; to receive this award I feel obliged to do so even more!”
We wanted to know our winners’ suggestions for supporting each other as women, and how we can do more to ‘lift others as we rise.’ All agreed that raising awareness of the numerous opportunities on offer to women in the automotive industries is key. Georgina is active in helping JCT600 to recruit more female apprentices and told us she is proud to encourage other women into the industry. Diane pointed out the need to support, encourage and sponsor new recruits; she believes she has a responsibility to help others as she herself was helped when she was new to the profession. Her message for leaders in the automotive industry? ‘For me, it’s all about the culture you create. Make sure you identify those future leaders, help them to achieve what you know they are capable of. I want an inclusive culture where, regardless of who or what you are, you can achieve your full potential.’
Le Etta believes that the concept of ‘paying it forward’ is also key to creating working environments in which women can thrive. ‘Do one good thing to change behaviour and attitudes, and encourage the next person to do the same thing to create momentum. Recognise achievements and say well done. Celebrate success! This event (our awards ceremony) is brilliant for raising visibility for women in the industry who might not always get that recognition.’
For Georgina, a workplace has to feel welcoming to women: ‘A washroom for women to get washed and changed in – you probably won’t see that much in a garage. Also, industry leaders attending more careers days at colleges is important – there was no-one to ask when I was at college, so I didn’t really know what opportunities were out there.’
Paula sums up perfectly the importance of being proactive and positive in our mission to get more women on board. ‘It’s about younger people coming through: do we recognise their potential and do we decide to invest in them? Show how your company is evolving and moving forward. It’s about integrity, communication and honesty: take that chance on someone.’
Paula, Diane, Le Etta and Georgina: thank you for your time and thank you for inspiring us all.
Article by Cathy Walker