AIA’s Women’s Leadership Conference draws women from all aspects of the industry

Niagara Falls, Ontario — June 22, 2014 — It was a day filled with thought-provoking presentations, candid panel discussions and many networking opportunities for women working in the automotive sector.

On June 18, the Automotive Industries Association (AIA) of Canada hosted its first Women’s Leadership Conference in Niagara Falls, Ontario with over 90 women from across Canada and the U.S. in attendance. The response was overwhelmingly positive and attendees heralded the event as “uplifting,” “inspiring” and “truly life-changing.”

Women from all aspects of the automotive industry gathered at the Hilton Fallsview Hotel for an evening reception on June 17, followed by an early start the next day with a full schedule of planned events.

The opening video remarks from the Honourable Lisa Raitt, Minister of Transport, set an energetic and positive note that carried throughout the rest of the conference.  Although unable to attend due to caucus commitments, Minister Raitt spoke about her experiences working in professions dominated by men and having being hired as the first woman Harbour Master for the Toronto Port Authority.

“I also am very proud that the prime minister asked me to be the first female Minister of Transport for Canada and I think that says a lot as well in terms of the fact that transportation is not a man’s world anymore. It has been mostly a man’s world for a very long period of time but times are changing…well, somewhat,” said Raitt.

She went on to say “fundamentally it is leadership conferences like today that are supposed to give you the energy to keep going.”

Her remarks were followed by Margot Micallef, founder and president, Oliver Capital Partners Inc. who spoke on Success is a Journey and how mentorship can help you survive life’s “free-fall” moments.
Susan Hitchon from Schrader International moderated a panel discussion with women in leadership positions in the automotive industry with open and often frank conversations on everything from professional experiences to tips for success.

The morning ended with enthusiastic applause for key note speaker Dianne Craig, president and CEO, Ford Motor Company of Canada, who spoke on the importance of leadership both in times of crisis and success, using the financial challenges and turn-around of Ford over the past decade as a benchmark.

In the afternoon, a “Hat Shop” trade show gave attendees the opportunity to mingle and network while hearing 10-minute mini information sessions from exhibitors on time management, health and wellness, finances, personal style coaching and more.

The day was capped with a speech by Amanda Lindhout, author of New York Times bestseller A House in the Sky, and founder of the Global Enrichment Foundation, who told her harrowing tale of being kidnapped and held hostage in Somalia for 460 days. Her speech held the room silent and riveted, lifting the audience to their feet in a standing ovation at its conclusion.

With attendees suggesting additions and insights on what could be included at future events, plans are already underway for next year.

“Yesterday, I had the distinct pleasure to attend AIA’s first annual Women’s Leadership Conference in Niagara Falls. This conference was about the contribution that women in this industry have made to its success today and more importantly to its future success and stability,” said Robert Pitt, chairman, AIA Canada. 

“Minster of Transportation Lisa Raitt graciously opened the meeting with a video presentation which included some exceptional information based on real-life experiences, perseverance, and superlative leadership. I am sure all of the presenters for the day left an inspirational mark on those who attended as the feedback to the association has been extremely positive.”

You can view Minister Raitt’s comments in their entirety in the player below.



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