WIN Annual Conference Encourages Women in Collision Repair to ‘Dream Out Loud’

The three-day event offered inspiration, education and networking opportunities to support and empower women in the industry.

WIN Chair Liz Stein, far left, of OEC, moderated the panel discussion, “Creating a Welcoming Culture.” Panelists included, second from left to right, Lisa McNally of American Family Insurance, Annie Karrick of the Boyd Group/Gerber, Taryn Limpach of Safelite Auto Glass, Kena Dacus of Dacus Auto Body and Collision Repair in Kansas, Christy Harris of CCC, Ritu Shannon of Enterprise and Melanie Allan of Craftsman Collision in California.

The Women’s Industry Network held its 2024 Annual Conference, themed “Dream Out Loud,” May 6-8 in Newport Beach, CA, with a lineup of speakers, discussions and networking opportunities to celebrate and empower women in the collision repair industry.

The event also featured a gala, where this year’s Most Influential Women recipients were recognized, as well as a walk to raise money for student scholarships and a three-vehicle giveaway to deserving local recipients by the National Auto Body Council’s Recycled Rides program.

Creating a Welcoming Culture

Among the presentations on the second day of the conference was a panel discussion on “Creating a Welcoming Culture.”

Moderated by WIN Chair Liz Stein, of OEC, the panel addressed how to foster engagement and teamwork among employees coming from diverse backgrounds, with a range of needs.

Melanie Allan, of Craftsman Collision in California, said her shop hired a consultant to help define their company vision and core values, which are revisited annually. She also said the shop is “big on transparency,” sharing important numbers like KPIs and recognizing employees for their “wins.”

She said the shop adjusted its pay structure for some of its employees from commission to hourly, so when the number of cars coming through slows down from time to time, employees don’t get testy.

Kena Dacus, of Dacus Auto Body and Collision Repair in Kansas, said her shop also switched from commission to an hourly rate for its technicians, which both attracts younger technicians who do not yet have the skills to completely repair a car, and encourages more experienced technicians to take the time to teach them.

“We did that five years ago, and it was a big game-changer,” Dacus said.

Dacus said her shop switched to a four-day workweek, which has proven instrumental in helping employees establish a better work-life balance.

Allan recommended doing fun things when possible. Being in California, her shop sometimes has to deal with power “brownouts,” scheduled by the utility companies. When those happen, the shop closes and everyone goes somewhere like a local pool hall.

“Do a fun thing out of the ordinary, and they will talk about it for a year,” Allan said.

Dacus said her shop does employee engagement surveys, every six to 12 months as needed. Replies are anonymous, which can be “scary to open yourself up to that, but it’s good to get that information,” she said.

Her shop also holds an all-staff meeting once per week to share the “new and good” in their life, which has proven to be a good way to get to know each other outside of work and learn what motivates them.

Ritu Shannon of Enterprise said her company encourages employees to donate time and money to nonprofits important to them. Employees can spread out donations over multiple pay periods, and Enterprise will match those. The company also gives them paid time off to volunteer for nonprofits of their choice, and organizes volunteering opportunities for employees to take advantage of.

Taryn Limpach of Safelite Auto Glass said Safelite gives employees eight hours of paid time off to volunteer per year, and established the Safelite Foundation, which employees can request to make grants to organizations important to them.

Lisa McNally of American Family Insurance said her company hires a lot of people who are new to the industry, and assigns them a mentor on day one. Shannon said Enterprise also has a mentorship program that matches employees, not necessarily to a mentor in the same department.

“When an employee feels supported and invested in, that’s when they feel job loyalty,” Shannon said. “Mentors benefit too, as they learn new perspectives.”

Annie Karrick of the Boyd Group/Gerber and Christy Harris of CCC said their companies have both established employee resource groups for different segments, including veterans, the LGBT+ community, women and people with disabilities, to both bring together people who share similar backgrounds and people who are allies or want to learn more.

NABC Recycled Rides Presentation

On the final day of the conference, three deserving women from San Clemente, CA, received the keys to refurbished cars, providing them enhanced mobility and improved daily life, through the NABC Recycled Rides program.

NABC giveaway

Cindy Cepeda, a military wife facing transportation challenges after a family car accident, received a 2019 Acura RDX, donated by the Auto Club of California and repaired by Caliber Collision.

“Having this car is one of greatest blessings in recent years. Now I can get to work, pick up my kids from school and do our daily routines. I am so grateful,” Cepeda said.

Celina De la Torre, a single mother and membership clerk, was presented a 2020 Mazda CX-5 donated by GEICO and repaired by Crash Champions. De la Torre had sold her car to help a friend in need and had been relying on borrowed vehicles.

This means a lot,” said De la Torre. “This is a big help for my family and me. I just can’t believe it. Thank you so much.”

Maria de Tate, another single mother working as a housekeeping supervisor, received a 2019 Hyundai Sonata donated by GEICO and repaired by Fix Auto Brea. Struggling with a deteriorating 2005 Toyota Camry, de Tate was facing immense financial burdens due to necessary repairs.

“Gracias. Thank you,” de Tate said. “This means so much.”

Abby Andrews

Abby Andrews is the editor and regular columnist of Autobody News.

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