As the keynote speaker at the second Birchwood Women in Automotive Leadership (WIAL) Summit held on June 13th in Winnipeg, Manitoba, I was honoured to have the opportunity, on behalf of Cox Automotive, to speak to many of the women in our industry who are striving to build their automotive careers and achieve success on their terms.
Graciously hosted by MaryAnn Kempe, CHRO, and organized by the WIAL Steering Committee, the event unfolded beautifully. The WIAL program was launched in 2016 under the sponsorship of Steve Chipman, President and CEO of the Birchwood Automotive Group, who says the Women in Automotive Leadership program has made a measurable impact on the company’s operations. Steve supports the empowerment of women so as to ensure they can further develop and grow within the company. The program has also deepened the talent pipeline that comes into the organization.
The primary purpose of this year’s WIAL Summit was to shift women’s perspectives when it comes to considering the automotive industry as a valued and rewarding career choice, while also helping to further develop, inspire, and support the current and future women of Birchwood.
In recent years there has been a considerable amount of research into the effect women can have on a company’s success. There are caveats to all of it, but the overall takeaway message is clear: companies thrive when they make equality a priority, and when women are given opportunities to play active and meaningful roles in the workplace. I was extremely impressed by Birchwood’s eagerness to progress gender equality and overall diversity within their group, as well as the industry.
This year’s WIAL Summit served as a very progressive and worthwhile event that looked to move female leaders’ careers into high gear by offering various activities, resources, and support that each have the power to develop and inspire women to achieve their full potential.
The event’s agenda featured a reveal of Birchwood’s upcoming Mentorship Program by MaryAnn Kempe, along with other phenomenal highlights. Attendees were given opportunities to network and discuss multiple topics while moving from booth to booth. Local social-savvy entrepreneur Addison Herosian presented a session on how to create and develop your personal brand. Keith MacPherson, a top finalist in Canadian Idol and current mindfulness coach, educated attendees on health and wellness. Denise Zaporzan, a local influencer on strategy and change spoke about the power of networking and mentorship. And Toastmasters Area Director, Wallace Greenlay, talked about finding your voice by creating your own personal “elevator pitch.”
Once again, I want to extend my full gratitude to MaryAnn Kempe and Steve Chipman for providing me with an opportunity to share my story, along with some of my experiences as a woman in the automotive industry over the last 20 years. Supporting our customers and the industry is – and always has been – tremendously important to me. I am, additionally grateful to have been afforded this most recent opportunity to represent Cox Automotive; it is consistently a privilege to work with one of corporate America’s most highly-regarded organizations.
To support one another and celebrate our successes, so as to ensure women will continue to make progress – and to ensure fewer are forgotten, less are broken, and so many more can break through and change the world – is one of the most important causes for me to contribute to.
Thank you again, Birchwood Automotive Group.
Maria Soklis was named President of Cox Automotive Canada on June 8, 2015. Maria, who leads the development and execution of Cox Automotive’s Canadian business strategy and operations, is also responsible for the Manheim, NextGear Capital, Dealertrack Canada and Ready Logistics businesses, in addition to integrating other Cox Automotive businesses and brands into Canada.