Female Auto Recyclers Form LARA
Approximately 40 members, including Pitman, Roepke and Whelan, launched LARA during the ARA convention in Austin, Texas.
PHOTO: Y-YARD AUTO & TRUCK, INC.
While a rising number of women continue to enter the auto recycling industry, their numbers are still modest enough that it may be difficult for them to locate a fellow female auto recycler for advice. That is why they formed the Ladies of the Automotive Recyclers Association (LARA).
"As a woman in the industry you get to thinking that you're the only one going through certain things," said Linda Pitman, owner of Dulaney Auto & Truck Parts, (DulaneysTX.com) Amarillo, Texas. "But at [LARA] meetings, you find out you're not alone."
While many women in the industry had discussed forming a supportive organization for female auto recyclers over the past few years, LARA was officially formed in October 2010 at the ARA convention in Austin, Texas.
"We realized there were opportunities for women in the industry, and thought it would be vital for women to be available to each other," said managing director, Ginny Whelan, ARA University (ARAUniversity.org), headquartered in Manassas, Va.
The group is currently working toward developing mentoring, recruiting and webinar programs, constructing a web page for the ARA web site and lining up speakers for motivational meetings.
LARA was unable to receive funding last year because ARA filled its fiscal 2010 budget by the time it formed the group. But the organization is on the ARA Educational Foundation's budget line for 2011.
Whelan estimates there are currently more than 60 official LARA members, who currently communicate mainly through newsletters, e-mail and social media web sites. The group is not exclusively for women on the front line of the auto recycling industry, but also includes members who work for industry suppliers, and spouses married to auto recyclers.
Women seeking to become members of LARA complete a questionnaire to match them with a mentor with similar interests or life experiences.
Kelly Roepke, Y-Yard Auto & Truck, Inc. (Y-Yard.com) president in Effingham, Ill. noted there are several challenges women in the industry still face.
"My number one challenge was getting respect; I had to work hard to earn it, especially so people wouldn't think I got to where I am just because of my family," she said.
Pitman agreed and said that it can be beneficial to talk to another female in the industry.
"In the past I had customers call and request to talk to a man," she said. "Some [customers] still have the mind-set that we're supposed to just be bookkeepers and secretaries. They may think we're unable to handle the day-to-day activities [of the business]."
Whelan said LARA's focus is on the educational experiences members can gain from learning from those who have already been involved in the industry for a significant amount of time.
"As we gain recognition, the benefits of the organization will not just be for women, but for the industry as a whole," she added.
LARA's next scheduled meeting is in Washington D.C. during the ARA Hill Days, March 16.