First automotive job: Car salesman in high school and college. Mitsubishi and Pontiac. After college, my first full-time job was F&I manager. I spent my first 10 years in the F&I office.
Proudest professional achievement: Being chairman of the Houston Automobile Dealers Association. I was on the board for 13 years. I was the first woman to be on the board, and first woman chairman. I was younger than my dad when he was on the board. We decided my title was "chair-chick."
Current challenge at work: It's a challenge to keep employee counts at a conservative number. Keep expenses under control. Unfortunately car sales — the market is not driving them to us, and inventories are very low, so we need to keep our personnel count and advertising expense in check relative to the sales environment. We need to stay at a fairly conservative level. I'm very optimistic about next year. I think the manufacturers will have their inventory levels back in check. I'm very hopeful come March 2011 that things will open up.
Why does the auto industry seem like a difficult environment for female executives? Because of the time commitment. However, there's no hurdle to overcome just because you're a woman. My dad opened doors for me. And then I had to earn a place in this business, and earn his respect and the respect of others. But the time — I go home and my second job begins: checking homework, making dinner and bedtime. I turn into a homework checker and Betty Crocker once I get home. I'm working the same as most men. The difference is I'm more detailed. Women have to manage their time during the day a little better. One of the two parents still has to organize, carpool, get their uniforms ready, make the doctor appointments and parent-teacher conferences. That normally falls on the woman. It's a matter of managing your time. I can get it all done.
What you do to relax: Go to Chequers. That is our little tiny farm 45 minutes away from the office. On Saturday afternoons after work, that's where I load up the kids. And it's quiet, peaceful. A little farmhouse with a front porch for coffee and a back porch for red wine. That's my little slice of heaven. In England, the equivalent to Camp David is called Chequers. It's 45 minutes from No. 10 Downing St.