Nearly 170 honorees.
General managers, corporate vice presidents, directors, chairpersons, chief executive officers, founders — representing auctions, consignors, dealers, dealer groups, financial institutions, technology companies, industry vendors, trade associations and beyond.
A decade, and counting, of recognizing excellence.
Cherokee Media Group’s Women in Remarketing program is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year — the culmination of growth leading to in-depth magazine features, large-scale panel discussions and even franchises inspired by Women in Remarketing taking root: Women in Auto Finance, the Women & Automotive: Canadian Leadership Forum, Women & Automotive Profiles in Leadership and this summer’s launch of Women in Retail.
“I remember when we first started doing Women in Remarketing, there was a handful of people that replied … and they were like, ‘Well, how many years do you think you’re going to (run the program)? How sustainable do you think this program is going to be?’” said Marilu McQuilkin, senior director of meetings and events for Cherokee Media Group.
“Because of the simple fact of the pool of women that were in the industry at the time (was low),” she said. “And what we’ve found obviously over time is that the pool was larger than originally anticipated, and it’s growing,” she said.
McQuilkin would know. While the annual Women in Remarketing issue of Auto Remarketing is headed up by this magazine’s editorial staff, McQuilkin and her team quite literally run the show when it comes to the Women in Remarketing panel discussion(s) each year at the National Remarketing Conference — and have since the program’s inception in 2009.
“I think that for me personally, the Women in Remarketing program, that panel specifically, is a highlight for my experience during NRC. Outside of being inspirational and kind of ‘feel good,’ you just learn a lot,” she said. “I learn a lot during that panel.”
But whether it’s the director of all things Used Car Week, the panelists on stage or attendees in the audience, perhaps the exact lessons learned by those listening in to the Women in Remarketing session has changed, as the conversation has evolved.
“It’s gone from storytelling and women talking about their experience, how they got where they were, etc. (and) their personal experiences, to now where it’s moved to best practices for leadership within the industry,” McQuilkin said.
“It’s one of those panels where it’s not because they’re women that they’re sharing all this information – it’s because they’re successful.”
One key facilitator of these successful leaders sharing such information is Andrea Brimmer, who is the chief marketing and public relations officer at Ally, the presenting sponsor of Women in Remarketing.
Brimmer has been a moderator for the panel several times and was a Women in Remarketing honoree herself in 2012.
One aspect of the program that stands out to her is the landscape of companies and different parts of the industry represented in the awards program — and the variety of perspectives.
“I love it, because I always really enjoy hearing the different perspectives from the women across the years,” Brimmer said of moderating the panel.
“In fact, some of those women have become very, very close friends over time,” she said, “because I’ve been so touched by their stories of both professional and personal perseverance, that it really has become something that’s really special to me. I look forward to it every year, and I think it’s just an outstanding and impressive group of people that win every single year.”
And that group, as it turns out, continues to grow.
There were a dozen honorees the first year (2009) and then seven the following year and 10 in 2011. Those numbers have jumped considerably.
There are 20 this year, as there were in 2018.
That followed 17 honorees in 2017, 20 honorees in 2016 and 19 honorees in 2015.
And that can lend itself to quite an extensive panel at NRC.
“You want to give everybody an opportunity to say something meaningful,” Brimmer said of how she prepares to moderate the panel. “It’s a special moment for them. It’s their moment in the sunshine, so to speak. And so, I always think about what are the kinds of questions that will either help somebody in the audience by hearing the answer to that question or give different perspective or insight that may not have been thought about.
“Because I’m a strong believer, as is our company, that diverse and inclusive thinking breeds better business,” she said. “And I think by the very nature of having these 18 women up there sharing their experiences, it can open the minds of people that are sitting in the audience or reading in (Auto Remarketing) their answers, in different ways to different experiences that they may not have thought of.”
She also poses questions that can draw out the personal experiences of the panelists, that they might share how they have overcome challenges, be they at the office or in everyday life.
But to be sure, the panel discussion drills down into business.
For instance, the conversation has evolved to include the “digital evolution” of the used-car industry and how that impacts the day-to-day work of the panelists on stage, Brimmer said.
“I would say the other thing that I’ve noticed in terms of change is that it seems like the impact and the opportunity that these women have is greater than ever before,” she said. “And you see that moving incrementally in the right direction every single year, where I think a lot of the stories previously — and even when people who are current nominees talk about their distant past — there were more struggles as women in this business than there are today.
“And I think that while there are still lots of mountains for us to climb and lots of glass ceilings that continue to need to be shattered in this business, I think that the (honorees) are actually seeing that what they’re doing is making an impact, and that there is a light at the end of the tunnel,” she said. “And you can see that change occurring year after year in not only the support that they get from the people that are in the audience, but also the support that they seem to have within their own companies for having women in really powerful and meaningful positions within those companies.”
Later in the interview, Brimmer emphasized why sponsoring Women in Remarketing has been so important for Ally.
“If you’re going to talk the talk, you have to walk the walk,” she said. “You can’t talk about the importance of diversity and inclusion; you can’t talk about the importance of the role of female leaders in this business, unless you’re actually going to do something about it.
“And the business will never change, it will never evolve forward, it will never become as ubiquitous as we need it to be relative to the proportion of women to men in executive positions unless big companies take a stand – unless all companies take a stand, not just big companies — and actually do something about it.
“And so, for us, we try to involve ourselves with sponsorships that have meaning beyond just building the Ally brand, but have meaning around building towards the values that we like to put out into the world,” Brimmer said.
The program, she said, has been “near and dear” to both her and Ally as a company, as they see it as way to make change within automotive.
“The more that we can share stories of women that have been successful in this business and how they’ve done it, the more it’s going to empower that next generation of young women coming up, looking to those leaders to say, ‘I can do it, too,’ and really make meaningful change in this industry.”