Penske women are paving the road for future women looking to enter the automotive industry.
Long considered a male-dominated business, the automotive industry has begun to evolve into a more inclusive and equitable environment for women in recent years. Penske has been a silent leader in this progression, with more women taking on leadership positions than ever before.
Tracy Gurnett, General Manager at MINI of Austin, started as a receptionist and worked her way up the ranks to eventually become a GM.
“Some people can be intimidated by a woman leader, but I’ve been fortunate,” said Gurnett. “My mentors—Bernie Wolfe [Executive Vice President—West Region], Roger Penske and Rob Kurnick—they leave me speechless at the opportunities I’ve been given.”
Not only is the status of women in executive and managerial positions changing, but their roles within service departments are changing as well. Penske’s Elizabeth Wintercorn, a refinish technician at Fayetteville Autopark, jumped at the opportunity to enter the automotive industry when she learned about a local technical institute with a collision repair program. She became the first woman to complete the program and graduate in collision repair.
“One of the biggest challenges was being taught by an old-school instructor who didn’t believe that women had a place outside of the kitchen,” said Wintercorn. “Every day was a struggle to be given tasks that didn’t have to do with sweeping the shop.”
However, despite the adversity she faced within the industry, Wintercorn emboldened others like her saying she would “encourage other ladies to take up the challenge of taking courses.”
Over at United BMW Roswell, Laura Cone is also breaking the traditional gender norms with her role as a technician. When Cone entered the auto industry years ago, she held an office position before realizing her true ambition lay in the garage.
“I feel like one of the guys. The guys I work with are very respectable and treat me like anybody else… If a girl is interested in this kind of job, go for it,” said Cone.
In striving for equality, Cone has achieved admiration for her skills in her work. “Girls are very detail-oriented people,” said Cone. “You would be surprised by how much that is valued in this kind of work.”
As the role of women in the auto industry continues to grow, the females at Penske provide a strong example of leadership to both men and women.
“We work for an organization that recognizes talent and ability based on results and dedication, not based on your sex,” said Gurnett. “There is a definite progression happening, and the leadership at PAG is helping to make that happen.”
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