Women in the aftermarket changing their roles

Jan. 1, 2020
Why should today?s aftermarket business owners care about the ratio of women in the aftermarket? There are numerous reasons, a panel of women aftermarket executives told 2011 Global Automotive Aftermarket Symposium (GAAS) attendees on Thursday. From

CHICAGO — Why should today’s aftermarket business owners care about the ratio of women in the aftermarket? There are numerous reasons, a panel of women aftermarket executives told 2011 Global Automotive Aftermarket Symposium (GAAS) attendees on Thursday.

From the influence of women on the purchasing decisions in the household to the increasing numbers of women in aftermarket positions, taking stock of women, their opinions and ideas is important.

There are a large number of women making decisions about automotive repair. Women are making decisions and the dealerships are winning mostly because of the experience, says panelists Susan Ulrey, executive director, sales operations and e-commerce, North American aftermarket, Tenneco Inc.

“I think we should all care that that is a piece of the market that we want to bring back our way,” she adds.

Fellow panelist Laura Teste, North American director, under-hood product lines, global aftermarket, Federal-Mogul Corp., says that the ratio is an indicator. If your business is happily moving along but you look around everyone in your company is the same gender, from the same town, part of the same generation and similar background, you’re going to get the same results until someone has an innovative idea and pushes you.

Perhaps that is changing, though, as moderator Donna Wagner, marketing communications manager, Wells Manufacturing, says colleges are now graduating more women than man. Women earn 60 percent of all master’s degrees and 42 percent of MBAs.



But why are students — specifically women — coming out of college and entering the aftermarket? According to a poll of students Northwood University and University of Northwest Ohio, 29 percent of women chose the aftermarket because they love automotive and 14 percent because their family is in the business and they would like to run it some day.

But 57 percent recognize the good career opportunities available.

Conversely, men chose automotive: 61 percent love automotive, 36 percent feel it’s a good career opportunity and only 3 percent want to take over the family business.

And both men and women — 61 percent and 57 percent, respectively — feel that opportunities are about the same for men and women.

So if there are more women getting involved in the aftermarket, whether it’s at the shop, supplier or manufacturer level, that only can lend itself to better approaches toward women.

“Certainly women are having a greater share of those purchase decisions. Arguably, they’re influencing,” Ulrey says. “Maybe they’re not the ones standing at the counter…but we hear from technicians that the gentleman standing there talking to the technician or service advisor, they’re placing a call home b/c the wife controls the checkbook.”


Women have a greater tendency to do research, so getting information to them through websites, social media and events is important. Ulrey says that Tenneco creates women’s car care clinics to educate, attract new customers, reinforce loyalty of current customers, create “brand advocates” for your business, provide significant word-of-mouth advertising and create a forum for consumer questions.

The third panelist, Amy Bonder, vice president, commercial effectiveness, Advance Auto Parts, described a women’s only event the company recently hosted to train, educate and support women in the industry.

She explains that while at another Advance event, they realized how many women are associated with the aftermarket. She relayed stories of women at the even talking with each other about accounting or online ordering systems, recruiting processes and more, and they became aware of how women are key influencers in our businesses.


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