The untapped talent pool

Jan. 1, 2020
Are you overlooking half of your potential new hires? You are if you aren’t actively recruiting women into your organization.

Are you overlooking half of your potential new hires? You are if you aren’t actively recruiting women into your organization.

Talking recently with Marlene Spence, I was reminded of just how many talented, hard-working and successful women I’ve met in our industry. When I was an MSO, for example, the majority of my estimating and administrative staff was women. Most had little or no previous experience working on cars when I hired them. But I found they had great attention to detail, a critical skill when identifying damage or line matching an estimate. And I found them incredibly empathetic with customers, which studies have found is a crucial element required to earn a customer’s trust and business in our industry.

Marlene is a great example of the opportunities for women in this industry, beyond front-office jobs. Those of you who know just how many shops I’ve been in throughout my career may be surprised when I say that Marlene is, hand downs, the best painter I’ve ever seen in my life. Her custom work is unbelievable (you can see some of it in her “Portfolio” album on her Facebook page.)

“I was an art major at Honolulu Community College when I had a 1969 Dodge Dart that needed rust repair and a new paint job,” Marlene told me. “I took it to a friend who did that type of work and went to his shop every day to watch how he repaired and painted that car. I was so interested that I switched my major from art to autobody repair and painting.”

Marlene is so humble that she might not tell you that by the time she graduated in 1999, she received outstanding student awards from her autobody and painting instructors and fellow students.

Her career has included everything from painting U.S. Navy submarines to working as a paint mixer and tech for several jobbers in Hawaii and Oregon. She ran her own custom-paint business for four years. And she now is with Hi-Line Distributors, a jobber in Hawaii, where she is involved in testing and training of new products in Hawaii’s somewhat unique climate and market.

She also donates time at the community college, sharing what she knows with students and encouraging other women to get into the trade.

Talking with Marlene and seeing her paint work reinforced for me the importance of WIN, the Women’s Industry Network (http://thewomensindustrynetwork.ning.com). WIN is dedicated to helping the industry – and the women in it – through education, networking and mentoring. I’ve seen first-hand the energy, enthusiasm and support that women in all types of roles – at shops, insurers and industry vendors – share with one another through WIN at its annual conference and other activities.

Marlene acknowledges that although she learned a lot while running her own custom-paint business, it was difficult because of her lack of business knowledge and experience. I’m convinced that with her talents, involvement in WIN would have helped her find the help and mentoring she needed. And I think her current success will still benefit from interaction with other women in the industry, and I know she will be an inspiration to many other women.

That’s why my company is going to sponsor Marlene to attend the WIN conference next spring. And I’d like to challenge the MSOs in this industry to do the same. Find the women within your organization who could benefit from interacting with other successful women in the industry. Think about how they could be energized by having a female mentor or by serving as a mentor to other women. Sponsor their membership in WIN as a sign of your belief in them and in the important role women play in our industry. And consider sending them to the WIN conference next spring.

Also share with them – and any women you consider hiring – Marlene’s advice to the women she encounters at the community college.

“In the beginning, it was really tough because you walk into a shop and they will challenge you to see what you really know and what you can do,” Marlene said she tells them. “Don’t get discouraged by that. Just jump in and go for it.”

About the Author

Mike Anderson

Mike Anderson, a former shop owner, operates CollisionAdvice.com, a training and consulting firm. He's also a facilitator for DuPont Performance Services' Business Council 20-groups.

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