Welcome to Women in Fleet. Firstly, can you tell us a bit about your current role? And then something about the path you took to reach fleet management?
I’m dealer Fleet Program Manager for Holden. My role is to build a program that rewards and enhances fleet capability in the network. How I got into fleet is an interesting question. I’m an accountant by trade. In 1990 I joined the finance division of Toyota Corp. After about seven years, it was closed down in Sydney and I was offered a chance to get into sales and marketing. In 2006 a fleet role came up and I became manager of Toyota Fleet, and I ran that until 2017, when the division was moved to Melbourne.
Given that it is a male-dominated profession, was that seen as unusual?
For many years, every meeting I went to I was the only woman. I was an accountant with a finance background. Going into a sales environment I had to persuade them that I could do it. I had a strategy. It was a sales and marketing organisation, so I set out to understand sales and marketing. It was a strategic move across, and I put my hand up for it.
How have things changed for women in recent decades?
Diversity in the auto industry has gone a long way. There’s a lot of women in senior ranks of the OEMs. But I still think there’s a lot of work to do. I think that’s a conversation we need to have. It’s hit the radar and the Women in Automotive breakfast earlier this year [sponsored by St. George Auto Finance] was a good step. There were senior OEM guys there. The conversation needs to be across automotive, including dealerships, technical levels and suppliers.
Do you know of any plans to nurture that conversation?
Rebecca Frizelle [CEO of Frizelle Automotive Prestige] has a team working to launch Diverse Auto Network Inc., and I believe AfMA is also working on something.
Great. I’ll follow them up.* Meanwhile, why might the industry benefit from attracting more women into fleet management roles?
To get a diverse point of view. Seventy percent of car purchases in Australia are influenced by women, and, increasingly, in the fleet space there are more women fleet managers, so being able to relate to women is important.
What advice would you give someone looking to enter the fleet field?
My key career advice for anyone is to get a mentor; decide what skills you want to develop and pick a mentor that can help you with those specific areas. I’m a huge fan of mentoring it’s made a huge difference in my career.
*Follow Up: Rebecca Frizelle is developing a website and mentoring program called Dani, Diversity Auto Network Inc. Australasian Fleet Management Association is encouraging members to support a women in fleet initiative modelled on the US-based Automotive Fleet Leasing Association’s own Women in Fleet networking and mentoring program.
— Caroline Falls is a freelance reporter, writing for Australian and international publications. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.