Plenty of jobs, opportunities for women in motoring as industry picks up pace
THE mood was celebratory, colourful, fun, upbeat, exuberant - and serious.
Those who gathered for the second Women@SIMI conference heard inspiring stories and got good advice.
But they also heard how they have to lead as well.
The conference, which began last year and is sponsored by Bank of Ireland Finance, is a novel way for professionals from all sectors of the motoring industry to meet up with their counterparts, do a bit of networking, share experiences, gain expertise etc.
More than 150 professional women from all over the country attended.
Their businesses and interests ranged from sectors such as heavy goods vehicles, body repairers, sales, distributors etc.
It was an ideal platform for those chosen to speak at the event to highlight something that most people know but many, especially in a male-dominated industry, so often overlook: there are too few women working in it.
And it didn't take Society of Irish Motor Industry president Mark Boggan long to cut to the chase.
He told us there are huge career and job opportunities within the industry - especially now that car sales are increasing and confidence is returning.
However, he said there are not enough women in the business and that had to be redressed.
Those present, he said, could be role models to help encourage others to take up careers.
"Our Industry has a big challenge to encourage more and more female employees to seek out a career - be it a technician, sales professional, dealer principal, etc, away from the stereotypical roles," he said.
The SIMI's honorary treasurer Rowena Dooley picked up where Mark left off.
She said the industry should 'tap into' the economic potential of the female market.
Companies, she said, should make far greater use of their female employees' skill sets.
Rowena, who is also dealer principal of Dooley Motors, said the industry has a duty to better understand the needs of its female customers when it comes to buying or servicing their cars so that the process would be less intimidating.
She added that there has been a shift in the industry mindset.
However, she stressed: "It is up to us all to make sure it continues at speed and that we pave the way for our present and future female colleagues."
Less of a surprise but worthy of mention was the fact that women look for different things in a car - such as child-friendly elements - and are less driven than men by the bottom line.
She really did her research, because she also came up with the fact that women take longer to make their buying decision.
International studies have revealed how on average it takes a woman 17 weeks to go through the 'purchasing process' - three weeks longer than men.
Pat Creed CEO of Bank of Ireland Finance said new-car sales are returning to more normal levels.
But he argued that there is still some way to go for the business to be viable. His estimate of that viability is in general agreement with most observers - new-car sales of 140,000 to 150,000.
PayPal executive Louise Phelan got a huge reception too as she frankly recounted the challenges and obstacles she had to overcome from starting out.
She said the big challenge for women in business is to get a good work-life-balance.
She said women can sometimes shy away or be deterred from applying for bigger roles because just one element of the job description doesn't suit.
She had a blunt message for them - and for anyone looking to step up the career ladder: "Just go for it."
In its own way that summed up the advice and the mood of a great event.
So there is no excuse now not to get out the CV and apply for a job in the motor business and start or advance a career in what is most definitely no longer a man's world.