I recently wrote a blog sharing an interesting statistic: farmers have a higher percentage of women in their workforce than fleet does. Part of it is perception. “It’s man’s world.” But part of it is simply a lack of effort for inclusion.
Sometimes, all it takes is one challenge and venting to a colleague to spark an idea that can make a real impact, like “Ms. Fixit.”
Myndee Field, a national service supervisor at Enterprise Fleet Management, shared an account of a frustrating call with a fellow female coworker, curious to hear if she encounters this and how she handles the pushback.
As a routine part of her day, she had called a maintenance shop to inquire about a status update on a client’s vehicle that was in the shop. The gentleman on the other end of the line provided only vague details, assuming limited technical knowledge due to the sound of her voice.
“Hearing the experience was common in her world, my wheels began to turn,” Field said.
What was so frustrating? Once again, being dismissed due to inaccurate assumptions when simply looking for necessary information. This is a common theme that many women echo in the commercial fleet industry.
But, with frustration comes innovation and action.
Fleet: Always More to Learn
We aren’t all born with intrinsic automotive knowledge. Very few grow up dreaming of fleet, learning the industry before entering it.
“Often, I would be given inaccurate information regarding technical aspects of diagnosing a vehicle or manufacture specifications that a maintenance shop representative wasn’t meeting,” Field shared.
When she would provide feedback or ask probing questions to clarify further, it wasn’t uncommon to be met with a frustrated response and quick dismissal upon seeking additional clarification.
“I felt like perhaps the issue lay with me. If I tried harder, could speak more technically, or pushed back more firmly from the onset, maybe I could have better clarity to provide the answers I needed to serve our clients best,” she explained.
Knowing that she felt this way and after speaking with her coworker after the initial phone call, she immediately understood that she wasn’t alone in these feelings.
And this is where Ms. Fixit was born. Starting as a chat group to help fellow colleagues, and Field, learn and succeed within the fleet and transportation industry.
Taking Positive Steps to Make Change Happen
Field connected with the person who led training efforts for further counsel. National Service Department Supervisor, Eric Wallingsford, suggested in passing that starting a chat for the female techs within the department could be helpful.
“Eric’s wife is a female mechanic and is well-versed in the struggles and pushback women often face within the industry. Heading back to my desk as quickly as I could, I reached out to our management team to see if I could obtain a list of all female techs (ensuring no one was left out) to see if there was interest in forming a group to support female techs,” she said.
The quick responses Field received were overwhelming with excitement, and she knew “Ms. Fixit” would quickly become more than a chat group.
Getting Internal Support from All Levels
It was clear from the start that Field couldn’t make this happen all by herself, she needed a team. Starting with the support from Assistant Vice President Dawn Schremp, a senior executive working within automotive and fleet management for 38 years, was quick to lend her support and sponsorship of forming “Ms. Fixit” from the beginning.
Ms. Fixit is an Employee Resource Group of Enterprise Fleet Management’s National Service Department that is an employee-led, voluntary community group in the workplace that ensures equality for women employees, fosters diversity, and promotes inclusivity for those working within the technical automotive field.
“Dawn set up quarterly meetings with me to discuss what could be done to make this group more seen and supported within the department and what ideas could be implemented to be inclusive and applicable to all members,” Field said.
“This may not seem like a big deal, but Dawn’s commitment to setting up quarterly meetings signaled her backing to ensure Field received the support to set up this group for ongoing success. I was an entry-level Maintenance Coordinator when I started this Group, and Dawn is an Assistant Vice President within the organization. Her support was very meaningful from the start,” Field said.
Benefiting from Collective Knowledge
Ms. Fixit has created an open and supportive forum to ask questions without fear of judgment and technical knowledge being second-guessed.
“Members in attendance include women with tenured careers like Dawn to newly hired colleagues just beginning their careers. The spectrum of tenure lends great conversations and advice to all in attendance. Members can talk through challenges, making it easier to navigate circumstances when they arise and address them head-on with confidence and professionalism,” she explained.
The group held an in-person meeting, including virtual employees online, even providing delivery lunch for those joining virtually.
“We discussed ideas for community involvement and options to volunteer as a group. During a recent meeting, a representative from HR joined to discuss employee recruitment efforts geared toward adding more women hires to the National Service Department and having a few ‘Ms. Fixit’ representatives attend tech school recruiting career fairs,” she said.
Enterprise Fleet Management knows representation matters and wants women to feel welcome and excited about joining this industry.
“The group is working toward a motto reflecting the inclusivity of the group, department, and Enterprise Fleet Management,” Field shared.
Looking Forward to a More Inclusive Future
And the most exciting part, this is only the beginning! The program is helping educate and grow inclusivity in fleet. And this shows that sometimes it just takes a spark of an idea to make a huge impact.
“What started as a little Teams chat for us women techs to vent over frustrating interactions has quickly grown into a community of amazing, uplifting women that want to make a difference for the department, our communities, and the way women in automotive and other male-dominated industries are viewed,” Field concluded.
It doesn’t take much to make a huge impact. Creating a more welcoming environment for everyone opens the door to innovation, out-of-the-box thinking, and creative ways of working in the ever-evolving fleet industry.