After 16 years in the automotive industry, Mbie Dowd has to convince people every day to trust her with their car care.
“There’s a misconception that women don’t know about cars,” explained Dowd, general manager of Casey’s Tire Pros and Automotive in Greensboro, North Carolina. “Women have to be more visible in this industry no matter where you are so that people can see us, and the industry can change.”
Dowd and about 100 other females connected to the industry made themselves visible at the first gathering for Women of Tire Pros, a group formed by female Tire Pros members in April 2020, at the Tire Pros Dealer Conference this month. While the idea of a women’s group within the Tire Pros community has floated around for a few years, the event marked the first time the group was able to meet in person and rally around its mission, said Whitney Moore, the group’s founder and general manager of GL Moore Tire Pros & Automotive in Springfield, Missouri.
“This is just the beginning,” Moore said, addressing the crowd of women and male supporters at the event. “Our goal is for women to see that this is a profitable and equitable business and one in which they can grow and succeed.”
Moore said the group has three pillars: recruitment, finding ways for more women to get involved in the industry; support, or lending a hand to other female tire dealers in helping achieve their goals as well as male tire dealers without a female presence at their shop to make their business more female friendly; and mentorship, pairing women with years of experience in the industry with those that are starting out or just joining the Tire Pros family to help them navigate the industry. Moore also said that the group is open to all – female Tire Pros dealers, shop managers, service advisors, technicians and wives and daughters of dealers that are connected to the industry.
“Whether you’re involved in the business directly or not, you’re part of the Tire Pros family and that’s what matters,” Moore said.
While rallying behind these goals, each woman in attendance had their own reasons for championing the group’s cause.
“I always wanted to be in the automotive industry, but I never saw any women doing this, so that’s why I’m compelled to be here,” Dowd said. “I’m constantly having to prove myself in this industry, so that in five to 15 years, when a customer comes into a shop and asks a woman a question, she’ll give them the answer, and they won’t question it.
“This is an opportunity for everyone to learn and be educated,” Dowd continued about the group.
Jessica Johnson, general manager at Marc Yount’s Tire Pros in Evans, Georgia, said she has been in the tire business for 10 years and echoed Dowd’s sentiments of breaking down stereotypes and making the industry more welcoming for women.
“A lot of us stumble into the industry,” she said, reflecting on her experience. “I’m sure there are more people, especially women, out there that could be great in this industry and just don’t know it. If women felt more welcome in the industry, they’re more likely to participate.”
Mary Michaels, whose husband, Gary, is general manager of Tire Review Top Shop Winner Tires Tires Tires Tire Pros with locations in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and Sioux City, Iowa, called the Women of Tire Pros event “inspiring.”
“The automotive industry, in general, is male-dominated, but to see so many women rise into leadership roles is energizing,” she said.
At the event, Moore thanked Tire Pros and American Tire Distributors (ATD) for its support of the group. She said although the group is just getting started, she expects to have monthly meetings with members and different committees within the group as they work to fulfill its mission.
Greg Bell, Tire Pros president, expressed his support for the group and the backing it has from the Tire Pros organization.
“There is nothing more important that we can do than invest in our female business leaders,” Bell said. “We are going to continue to invest the time and resources behind this group, so that next year, we can see double the number of people that are here today.”