UPPER DARBY, Pa. — Patrice Banks, owner of Girls Auto Clinic in Upper Darby, has partnered with three other automotive industry professionals to form the Women of Color Automotive Network (WOCAN) to attract, support, connect and empower minority women in the automotive industry.
"The automotive industry represents a significant opportunity for financial wealth, career advancement and entrepreneurship," the group stated on its website. "Yet, there is low representation of women of color in the industry. In fact, while women of color represent 18% of the U.S. workforce, they only represent 6% of the automotive industry, with very few holding leadership positions."
The other group founders are: Amanda Gordon, owner and CEO of GoJo Auto, a used car dealership in Denver; Kerry Wise, vice president of communications for TruCar Inc. in Los Angeles; and Erikka Tiffani, sales manager for Audi Marietta in Atlanta.
During a Facebook Live launch Aug. 11, the women discussed their challenges as a minority in their automotive careers.
Because there are so few women, and women of color, in the industry, there is a lack of mentors to help them through the challenges, they said.
WOCAN was created because, while women in general face challenges in the automotive industry, women of color have specific issues and challenges, they said.
"We are going to be touching on topics that are specific to women of color because we have unique experiences," Ms. Gordon said. "If you are a non-woman-of-color who wants to understand and align with our experiences and be a voice that helps combat what we're going through, then by all means join. But understand this is not going to be fluffy and it's not going to cater to the warm and nice side of what we experience. Our lives, our experiences, our growth is different. It just is."
"Everybody creates communities based on shared core values, shared identity or shared experiences," Ms. Banks said, noting that WOCAN was created out of a need for a community where women of color could connect.
"These types of programs help us bridge that gap. When we're bridging that gap and we're creating more opportunities and you see more women of color in the automotive industry, eventually you won't need a WOCAN."
The group expects to host regional meet-ups, monthly webinars, Facebook Group discussions, mentoring programs, scholarships and job postings.
WOCAN hopes to offer support not only for professionals in the automotive industry, but also for women considering a career in the industry.
"We bring awareness to the opportunities for women of color across the automotive industry, offering the chance to connect and learn from successful women in the business," according to the WOCAN website.
"We educate and empower women of color through career resources and information, scholarships, and capital to start or grow their career/business in the automotive industry.
"We provide a safe community for women of color in automotive to network, find mentorship, and make new friends."
WOCAN also invites companies and organizations to offer their support and sponsorship of the group's activities.