> Inforum AutomotiveNEXT inforummichigan.org/automotivenext Detroit
Who's in charge: Terry Barclay, CEO, and Jacqueline Wiggins, COO How many members: 400 History: AutomotiveNEXT was founded in 2011 at Inforum's annual North American International Auto Show breakfast. The group is aimed at closing the talent gap and strengthening the talent pipeline. Description: "It was clear to top-ranking women executives in automotive that the talent gap wasn't going to get solved on its own, and so women leaders in the industry came together with Inforum to create AutomotiveNEXT," Wiggins said. "Today, AutomotiveNEXT's focus is still on strengthening the talent pipeline. The business case for more women leaders in automotive has been made. Now, AutomotiveNEXT is focused on helping companies understand the elements that create environments for talent to thrive." Accomplishment: Wiggins said that through three annual events, AutomotiveNEXT has "reached more than 500 students from 30 schools with a consistent message to young women that no other industry offers as exciting a range of career opportunities." How the group is creating change: Wiggins said AutomotiveNEXT provides a "supportive yet challenging community for women at every stage in their careers" through initiatives such as its Cross-Company Mentoring Program and AutomotiveNEXT 1:1, which brings students and industry leaders together to learn and network. Surprising fact: Mary Barra is a member of Inforum and helped to launch AutomotiveNEXT when she was vice president of global human resources at General Motors. Wiggins on why she's with AutomotiveNEXT: "AutomotiveNEXT is a powerful network and supportive community for women in automotive that inspires and empowers them to lean in, achieve their full potential and make a lasting impact in the industry."
Who's in charge: CEO Marcia Ferranto How many members: About 6,000 History: The group was founded in 1977 in Washington by a group of women in the transportation industry who felt they were not getting enough support. Ferranto said, "Women weren't really permitted to leave work in 1977 to go to be part of a professional group, but they could be part of a seminar." Hence the name Women's Transportation Seminar. Description: WTS "seeks to attract, retain and advance women through its professional programs, networking opportunities and access to industry and government leaders." Accomplishment: Ferranto said the group has succeeded in helping to attract, retain and advance women's careers in the transportation industry, as evidenced by the group's growth. She said more work needs to be done. "Although the landscape has changed a little bit from 1977, it hasn't really changed that much," she said. "It's still such small growth, relatively speaking." How the group is creating change: WTS launched the WTS Executive Leadership Program in October to advance the goal of putting more women in C-suite positions in transportation fields. Surprising fact: The group includes many men who share the goal of seeing more women advance in transportation fields. "It's not men holding women back in our culture," Ferranto said. "It's our culture itself. And our culture is changing." Ferranto on why she's with WTS: "As a citizen, I've grown to believe that transportation is everything. It's an incredibly important time in our economy to bring young people in, especially women, to the industry and to see them advance." > SEMA Businesswomen's Network sema.org/sbn @SEMAsbn Diamond Bar, Calif.
Who's in charge: Chris Kersting, CEO of the Specialty Equipment Market Association How many members: More than 500 History: The SBN was founded in 1993 by Amy Faulk and Charlie Van Cleve-Schmidt. "It started as a small, informal group of women leaders and has grown to be a significant entity that has inspired hundreds," Kersting said. Description: "The SBN is focused on providing networking, education and recognition opportunities for professional women in the specialty equipment industry, thereby enhancing their careers and positively impacting the growth of the entire automotive aftermarket," Kersting said. Accomplishment: Kersting pointed to the SEMA Mustang Build that SBN held a few years ago. "The all-women build was a powerful project that resulted in nationwide coverage and raised awareness of women's role in our industry." How the group is creating change: "The SBN is encouraging and supporting women to get involved with the industry. Industry diversity is really what makes the industry thrive," Kersting said. Surprising fact: "The SBN is about more than just gender," Kersting said. "So really, it shouldn't come as any surprise that there are many men involved." What motivates Kersting? Kersting calls the passion and enthusiasm in the industry "infectious." > Society of Women Engineers societyofwomenengineers.swe.org @SWEtalk Chicago
Who's in charge: CEO Karen Horting How many members: About 34,000 History: The group was founded in 1950 to "give women engineers a unique place and voice within the engineering industry." Description: The group is dedicated to giving women in the field a chance to network and grow, in addition to reaching out to students in grade school and high school to explain the opportunities engineering provides. Accomplishment: The group's annual conference, the largest for female engineers in the country, has been growing in attendance by about 1,000 per year, Horting said. How the group is creating change: Horting said SWE has placed an emphasis on working with employees to create an inclusive culture in a field where fewer than one in five of all engineering degrees in the U.S. is earned by a woman. Horting on why she's with SWE: "It felt like a place where I could make a difference. The fact that it is an organization that is helping people is really attractive." > Women in Technology mywit.org @witatl Atlanta
Who's in charge: Executive Director Sandy Welfare How many members: About 11,000 History: The group was founded in 1992 to serve women in the Georgia technology community and has grown to the point where more than 1,000 professionals attend WIT forums every year. Description: The group provides opportunities for professional development through its WIT Executive Readiness and WIT Careers in Action pages, in addition to its philanthropic and educational programs that encourage young women to enter STEM areas. Accomplishment: WIT holds an annual WIT Connect event at which women can network with industry leaders. Additionally, it holds Women of the Year awards, recognizing female leaders in the industry who are an inspiration in their communities. How the group is creating change: Welfare said WIT has allowed women in technology in the Georgia region to connect with "some of the best tech leaders in Georgia."Welfare on why she's with WIT: "For me, this is marrying my previous corporate background with nonprofit work."
Who's in charge: President Sherry Muir-Irwin How many members: About 200 History: The group was founded in 1993 with its Detroit chapter. "It had just started as a casual group of 12 women," marketing co-chair Michelle Blakeley said. The goal is to create a space where women can support one another, she said. Description: "Our primary focus is advancement of women in the auto industry," Blakeley said. Fellow marketing co-chair Patricia Price said another focus is raising money for scholarships. Accomplishment: The scholarships the group awards have expanded outside the Detroit area. Now, 34 percent of AWAF's scholarships are given to girls outside the area, Blakeley said.How the group is creating change: The group is "about helping younger females in addition to yourself," Blakeley said. Proceeds from events, where women can connect and network, go toward providing scholarships. Price on the challenges AWAF is working to address: "These days, it's tough to get people interested in the field. We work to get excitement about the industry out there like it was before the economy tanked."
> Women's Automotive Association International www2.waai.com Birmingham, Mich.
Who's in charge: President and CEO Lynn Wilhelm How many members: About 250 History: The organization was founded in 1995 to recognize women's achievement in the auto industry, provide networking opportunities and encourage women to grow through mentoring and scholarships. Description: The group focuses on developing and advancing women in leadership positions within the industry, Wilhelm said. Accomplishment: The group hands out scholarships every year at its Professional Achievement Awards, allowing young women to advance early in their lives and see the auto industry as a way to move ahead. How the group is creating change: Wilhelm said issues women care about are gaining traction in the industry because of the conversations women in the group have. Wilhelm on the group's success: "The biggest satisfaction I get is getting women to realize what's out there. It's such an exciting industry."
Who's in charge: President Allison Grealis How many members: About 600 History: The group was founded in 2010 to address what Grealis said was an obvious need. "There wasn't really a group out there for women in manufacturing, generally speaking," she said. Description: "Our aim is to inspire and advance women who are already in the field," Grealis said. The group does this through monthly webinars, access to programming, networking opportunities, mentoring programs, a customized employment tool and more. Accomplishment: Grealis called WiM's annual summit "transformative." More than 300 women attended the most recent summit. "These women who attend feel like they're not alone," she said. Surprising fact: Grealis thought the group would be focused primarily on individuals, but she said she was surprised by how many companies wanted to get involved with WiM. Grealis on why she's with WiM: "It's rewarding to talk to women from such a wide array of backgrounds." She also said the opportunity to see women advance in the industry is satisfying. > IEEE Women in Engineering ieee.org/women @IEEEWIE New York
Who's in charge: WIE Program Manager Keyana Tennant How many members: About 16,000 members of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers have added the Women in Engineering affiliation to their membership. History: Women in Engineering was founded in 1994, 110 years after the founding of IEEE. Description: WIE's "goal is to inspire, engage and advance women in technology," said Nita Patel, IEEE Women in Engineering International Leadership Conference chairwoman. "Historically, we have focused heavily on the inspiration component and pre-university outreach. Recently, we have shifted some focus to balance inspiration with advancement and are focusing more initiatives to help women become prominent leaders." Accomplishment: WIE recently launched an IEEE.TV WIE channel that highlights presentations from the group's events. "I think the most significant accomplishment is the number of female students inspired to pursue engineering," Patel said. How the group is creating change: "We have over 550 volunteer-led WIE affinity groups in 160 countries," Patel said. "They organize and execute over 900 programs each year, reaching over 100,000 students and professionals." Surprising fact: About one-third of the group's membership is male. Patel on why she's with WIE: "I love the passion of the members. Each person is truly striving to make a difference, and people give countless hours of their personal time to advance women in technology. How can this not be motivating?" > Michigan Council of Women in Technology mcwt.org @MCWT Dearborn, Mich.
Who's in charge: President Cindy Warner How many members: About 800 History: The group was founded in 2000 by women in the auto industry who "looked around and said, ‘Wow, there aren't very many of us,'" Warner said. She said the group was founded as a support system. Description: The MCWT "provides leadership, mentoring, community outreach, professional development and networking to professional women within the Michigan technology community," the mission statement says. Accomplishment: Warner points to the group's work in distributing scholarships to young women, in addition to its weeklong summer technology camp, Camp Infinity. The camp targets girls in grades 4-7 and is aimed at building their confidence with robotics, computer game design and other technology. How the group is creating change: MCWT is dedicated to reversing a trend in technology in which women are not able to keep up and advance as much as they should, Warner said. "We're heading in the wrong direction, so we're doubling down," she said. Warner on why she's with MCWT: Warner said helping girls in poverty and less fortunate situations learn that they can succeed in technology gives her satisfaction.
Who's in charge: Co-presidents Cherie McCain and Emily Lauder How many members: More than 200 History: The organization was founded in 2011 by a group led by Susan Brennan, then the head of manufacturing at Nissan's Smyrna, Tenn., plant. It was based on similar groups in Detroit. Description: Its mission is to "promote women in automotive ... through promoting professional development for women in the industry, scholarships for women pursuing degrees in STEM and promoting STEM to middle school girls." Accomplishment: The group has awarded more than $168,000 in scholarships, and it holds events in Tennessee and South Carolina to promote STEM for middle school girls. How the group is creating change: "One girl at a time," McCain said. "We realize that we can't do everything, so we try to focus on doing a few things well." McCain on raising scholarship money: "When I approach companies for sponsorship or scholarship, I can speak from my heart about SAWF's mission. The encouragement that we give to these young women will drive the female automotive leaders of tomorrow and beyond."
Who's in charge: Co-founder Christy Roman How many attended its August conference: More than 300 History: Women in Automotive held its first conference in August in Orlando. The group was founded by six female leaders, including Roman, to provide women in the industry a chance to network and collaborate. "It went so much better than we thought," Roman said. "We were all sort of in shock and awe." Description: The group is dedicated to bringing women in the auto industry, particularly in dealerships, together to mentor one another, train and figure out ways to get more women in the industry. Accomplishment: Roman said the August conference exceeded expectations and was a national event. The goal, she said, is to get 1,000 attendees and do two conferences a year, one on the East Coast and one on the West Coast. How the group is creating change: Roman said the group is bringing women together to figure out why 40 percent of resumes for dealership positions are from women, yet just one in four is hired. Roman on how she got started with the group: Roman said she went to a marketing event for women in Chicago and got the idea for an automotive women's conference.
Send us a letter
Have an opinion about this story? Click here to submit a Letter to the Editor, and we may publish it in print.