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With women like Mary Barra paving the way, it’s refreshing to see so many female faces making their way into automotive leadership roles. At the 2018 Chicago Auto Show, women in automotive were celebrated at the show’s second-annual What Drives Her event.

The What Drives Her event was created in partnership with Women in Automotive and A Girls Guide to Cars. The event took place during the auto show’s press days last week, giving journalists and social media influences the chance to hear from two panels of prominent women in the industry.

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The first panel brought together women from all aspects of automotive, from media to manufacturing. Panelists included Jennifer Newman, Editor-in-Chief; Kim Stonehouse, Facebook’s Industry Manager, Auto Team; Cristina Aquino, Ford’s Mini and Medium Utility Marketing Manager; and Dr. Jody Hall, Steel Market Development Institute (SMDI) Vice President, Automotive Market.

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Throughout the panel, the women discussed a variety of topics, from technology in automotive to activism on a larger scale. They acknowledged that the automotive industry is not isolated; larger movements in today’s society influence the way automotive operates. When asked about issues such as closing the gender pay gap in automotive, Christina Aquino offered support. “It’s being aware of the different movements that we’re seeing around us,” she said. “And recognizing if someone’s voice isn’t being heard, we make sure to find ways to support them.”

The second part of the event included a presentation in which Jill Ciminillo, the Midwest Automotive Media Association’s first female president, presented Nissan with the 2018 Driving Engagement Award from the Word of Mouth Marketing Association.

From there, a second panel took the stage, including Monique Kumpis, Hyundai Senior Group Manager of Brand Marketing; Celeste Briggs, General Motors Manager of Dealer Policy; and Anne Corrao, Nissan Director and Chief Marketing Manager. The group addressed challenges women in automotive face in the workplace, as well as the different approach sales teams take when selling to female customers. While the women acknowledged the progress automotive has made, they reminded the audience that there is still work to be done.

“We have come a long way, and I’m so excited to see people like Mary Barra as the CEO of GM,” said Monique Kumpis. “But I still think we have a long way to go.”

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CHICAGO (Feb. 13, 2018) – Furthering its mission to honor and celebrate women in the automotive industry, the Chicago Auto Show partnered with Women in Automotive and A Girls Guide to Cars for the annual What Drives Her networking luncheon and panel discussion, presented by the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers. Hosted during the show's Media Preview, the What Drives Her panel brought together women working in automotive, manufacturing and media for a deep dive into the industry trends impacting the experience of women. The conversation, guided in part by Ford's 2018 Trends Report, covered topics such as technology disruption, the gig economy and activism. "Our world is changing so fast," said Scotty Reiss, founder of A Girls Guide to Cars, in her opening remarks. "Things are moving so quickly that the advice you get today may not be relevant tomorrow." That context was the cornerstone of the two-part panel discussion, which kicked off with a "Coffee Chat" featuring:

Ford's Mini and Medium Utility Marketing Manager Cristina Aquino

Steel Market Development Institute (SMDI) Vice President, Automotive Market, Dr. Jody Hall

Panelists touched on the importance of women in leadership roles, the increasing role women play in shaping the automotive industry and how women can play an active role in closing the gender and inequality gaps that exist in both business and everyday life. Christina Aquino of Ford said it starts with self-awareness and advocacy. "It's being aware of the different movements that we're seeing around us," said Aquino. "And recognizing if someone's voice isn't being heard, we make sure to find ways to support them." Following the coffee chat, Jill Ciminillo, the first female president of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, opened the presentation for the Word of Mouth Marketing Association's 2018 Driving Engagement Award. Nissan was named the winner for its #SheDrives campaign in which the company provides driver's education to women in Saudi Arabia, who just this year will be given the legal right to drive. Historically, the award has recognized automakers with compelling campaigns that drive engagement on social media. This year, the association looked specifically for those campaigns that engaged women. Campaigns by Volvo and Audi were among the finalists. Word-of-mouth marketing is a particularly important tool given an estimated 92 percent of consumers trust word-of-mouth recommendations from people they do not know over branded content. Michelle Krebs led the luncheon and panel session, which included:

Hyundai Senior Group Manager of Brand Marketing and Advertising Monique Kumpis

The panelists covered topics ranging from the car buying experience for women, which they said commands a different approach than the traditional sales model, to the need for expanded diversity in automotive leadership. "We have come a long way, and I'm so excited to see people like Mary Barra as the CEO of GM," said Kumpis. "And, at Hyundai, we have our first regional general manager in Kimberly Walker, who is an incredibly strong woman running the western region for Hyundai. But I still think we have a long way to go." Kumpis went on to discuss one of the most significant challenges most women face in the workplace was feeling they need to absorb more responsibility – often without compensation – to get the recognition they deserve, which can take a toll on work/life balance. The panelists unanimously agreed that, to get ahead, women should learn to say no to assignments in addition to saying yes. The What Drives Her event is just one example of how Chicago Auto Show organizers engage women. When it comes to the public, Foresight Research reports the Chicago Auto Show has an almost even split of male and female attendees: 54 percent are male and 46 percent are female. Further, research shows that women are involved in 85 percent of purchasing decisions when it comes to vehicles. Manufacturers, exhibitors and show organizers will build on the momentum of the What Drives Her event during its annual Women's Day today, Tuesday, Feb. 13. Women are admitted entry at the reduced rate of $7 per ticket for special events and programs tailored specifically to females. For a full list of Women's Day activities, please visit For continuing coverage and a behind-the-scenes look at the show, follow the Chicago Auto Show on social media. For more information about the 2018 Chicago Auto Show, please visit ###

About the Chicago Auto Show The Chicago Auto Show is the largest auto show in North America, spanning more than one million square feet of production, concept and exotic vehicle exhibit space. In addition to hosting multiple world and North American vehicle debuts, the Chicago Auto Show's First Look for Charity raises more than $2.5 million annually for 18 vital Chicago organizations in a single night. The 2018 public show is Feb. 10-19.

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