There are a number of professional women’s associations. A quick Google search will bring up Women in Film, the Association for Women in Communications, Women in Animation, Women in Aviation, Women in Higher Education, Women in Engineering, Women Mathematicians, etc.
Why not an association for women in fleet?
This was the thought that struck Carolyn Edwards, director of operations, vehicle acquisition for LeasePlan USA. What prompted it was a lunchtime conversation with co-worker Nancy D’Amico, executive vice president/chief information officer for LeasePlan USA. D’Amico told Edwards about an organization of which she is a member, called the Technology Association of Georgia, which has a subgroup called Women in Technology. The subgroup was founded in 1994 and currently represents almost 1,000 women professionals who work for technology companies. Its mission is to advance women in technology “from the classroom to the boardroom” by providing advocacy, leadership development, networking, mentoring and technology education.
Edwards wondered aloud, why can’t the fleet industry offer something similar?
“I thought of all the people with whom I interact in the fleet industry. More than half are women, working at the client level, as manufacturer partners, colleagues from other FMCs, and upfit suppliers,” said Edwards. “Many of these women hold high-level positions within the fleet industry and are very influential. How great would it be if the fleet industry had a forum for women to meet and discuss the multiple facets of our roles in the fleet industry?”
Edwards reached out to four LeasePlan clients for feedback and to gauge interest in developing such a group. All expressed support and became founding members. They are:
- Gayle Pratt, director, global fleet for Ecolab.
- Sue Miller, manager, fleet program services for McDonald’s Corp.
- Ginny Liddle, CAFM, corporate fleet administrator for Terracon.
- Christy Coyte, corporate global fleet manager for
- Johnson Controls, Inc.
Since then, several brainstorming conference calls have been held with the founding members to further refine the concept.
“When Carolyn and Nancy first approached me about this idea, my first thought was: ‘I wish this group was around when I first got into fleet,’” said Coyte. “I remember when I first started working in fleet, having to feel my way around for fleet resources until I found out about the NAFA and AFLA organizations. I hope this fleet group will be a valuable resource for woman in fleet, encouraging them to reach out, network, and engage with other professional women in the fleet industry. I hope it will also provide development opportunities to help all of us be successful in our careers.”
Liddle also believes such a group would offer many benefits. “I see the organization as a means for education, networking, and mentoring with our peers. We could provide scholarships to assist those who desire more education. Mentoring and networking go hand in hand to aid those who need guidance from those who have fleet experience. We all need help in our working lives, and this group would give women in fleet one more outlet for support,” said Liddle.
Although apprehensive initially, Miller also saw value in having women fleet professionals network with one another.
“Personally, I prefer to network with everyone regardless of gender, but I also understand the need to be with like-minded people. So when Nancy and Carolyn called about the idea of a fleet network for women, I was a little apprehensive. My nature is to be inclusive of everyone,” said Miller. “But then I evaluated the benefit of the Women’s Leadership Network and Working Mothers’ Council in my own company. Being part of these female networks provide an important framework for developing workplace confidence and creating friendships based on our business similarities. It is also a great environment for the tenured women to mentor and share their hard-learned wisdom with the young women just starting out. We are not going to post any ‘girls only’ signs, but I feel we can add to the health of our industry associations by providing this opportunity for women to meet and share. The intent is to give back and share — not separate and exclude.”
As of press time, an official name for the group had not been selected and the mission statement was still being formulated.
“Our focus is connecting women within the fleet industry to each other, to support and help with professional growth to help advance women in this profession,” said Edwards. “We want to take it slow and get industry feedback.”
If you want to provide feedback, let me know what you think.
Photo Gallery: A History of Women in Fleet
“Here, Gentlemen, Is the Future” (a story from 1970 about top female fleet managers)
A short news story on the original National Women’s Automotive Associates, formed in 1981.