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Breaking the Auto Glass Ceiling

Breaking the Auto Glass Ceiling

June 22, 2018

New Leadership in BC’s Automotive Sector

The automotive sector has been a male-dominated industry since the automobile emerged more than a century ago. However, the industry as a man’s world is changing and evolving.

In recent years, women have broken through various glass ceilings and are excelling in all areas of the automotive industry, making way for a well-rounded environment for employees and customers.

Women with high profile automotive careers, as Chairs or CEOs of major automotive companies and in leadership positions for automobile associations – and increasingly at every level in the industry, have been both encouraging and inspiring for young women looking for a rewarding career.

In British Columbia, the Vehicle Sales Authority (VSA) serves several key functions, providing consumer protection, maintaining a balanced and fair marketplace, motor dealer licensing and standards, and also providing a critical educational role for both consumers and industry.

Originally established as the Motor Dealer Council of BC, the VSA was formed in 2004 as a delegated administrative authority to regulate the retail sale of motor vehicles by administering and enforcing the Motor Dealer Act and portions of the Business Practices and Consumer Protection Act. As a not-for-profit organization, the VSA is governed by an eleven-member Board of Directors representing industry, government and the public.

The working relationship that the VSA has established with the British Columbia Motor Vehicle Sales Industry continues to focus on consumer protection and public confidence. As the motor
vehicle sales industry continues to experience solid sales growth, it is equally important that it’s positive reputation grows as well.

As a public body that performs a key role, strong and insightful leadership is paramount. To that end, the VSA’s activities are being guided by two individuals who capture all of the qualities you would want in a leader – and both just happen to be women.

Rebecca Darnell has served as a member of the VSA Board for the past seven-years. During this period, she has played a significant role during a period that has seen growth in the vehicle sales industry and enhanced protection for consumers.

Ms. Darnell was recently elected as Chair of the VSA Board of Directors and was tasked with the search for a new person to replace retiring President & CEO Jay Chambers. Earlier this month, that search concluded with Loree Gray being announced as the new president of the VSA.
Ms. Gray brings three decades of experience in the financial services sector – leading teams in insurance services, retail banking, wealth management and strategic planning for both domestic and international financial institutions.

I recently had the opportunity to welcome Ms. Gray to her new role on behalf BCs New Car Dealers and was immediately struck by her level of professionalism and candidness. She also expressed pride in having worked for organizations that put a focus on equality in the workplace, and the personal satisfaction of mentoring both men and women in their career advancement.

The automotive industry needs to continue promoting the diversity and availability of careers available for both men and women because it’s in the industry’s best interest.

Presently, more than 30,000 British Columbians are employed in BC’s automotive sector, whether it be in technical trades, marketing, IT, customer service or management positions. And with the average age of employees in the sector reaching 55 years of age, we face a challenge in recruiting, not only to keep pace with future retirements, but anticipated growth.

More women are entering trades programs and thriving – but they continue to be under represented in the most in-demand trades. Dealerships are eager to attract skilled workers in all areas regardless of gender and opportunities to earn a good income and career advancement have never been greater.

With 85 per cent of all car purchasing decisions influenced by women, this is a statistic the industry needs to take into account and be responsive to. Many automakers are increasingly asking women to lead in key areas of development, one example being new vehicle design. This is a highly complex environment where a multitude of components, materials and technologies must co-exist within reduced dimensions.

On behalf of the New Car Dealers Association of BC, I would like to extend my sincere thanks to outgoing president Jay Chambers for his dedicated service and to Rebecca Darnell and Loree Gray for stepping up to help drive change in the industry. And to all whose aspirations may include a career in some facet of the automotive sector, I encourage you to check out the following for more information:

Blair Qualey is President and CEO of the New Car Dealers Association of BC. You can email him at

Dealer Members with New Car Dealers Association

We represent more than 375 New Car Dealers throughout British Columbia.