The Evolution of Women in the Collision Industry
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The Evolution of Women in the Collision Industry

Unlike 20 years ago, women today are valued and very well-respected in the collision industry.

Sheila Samuel-Lefor owns three collision repair locations with her brother Jeff Samuel in Denver — CARSTAR Ideal Northglenn, CARSTAR Ideal Arvada and CARSTAR Ideal Littleton. She is the 2020 recipient of the NABC Changing and Saving Lives Award. Sheila and Jeff also earned the 2019 CARSTAR President’s Award.

When a customer walks into a collision repair facility today, it’s not unusual to be greeted by a female customer service representative, have a female estimator evaluate the damage, then meet with the female owner to discuss the repair.

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Then and Now

That hasn’t always been the case for the collision repair industry. I started in the automotive industry more than 20 years ago, and the collision industry then was much different than it is now. It was much rarer to see women in the industry back then. At times, I was met with a little skepticism. I had both male and female customers who would not interact with me and only wanted to speak with a man. Fast forward to today, and I feel as though women are valued and very well-respected — not only by our peers but by our customers.

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As the co-owner of three collision repair locations in Denver — CARSTAR Ideal Northglenn, CARSTAR Ideal Arvada, and CARSTAR Ideal Littleton — I’ve had an opportunity to see the roles and respect for women in the industry evolve over the years.

Opportunities for Growth

While the collision repair industry may be a non-traditional career path for women, there are many opportunities for growth, whether you want to become part of the estimatics or office team, or become a mechanic, technician or painter. Learning a trade can be very rewarding, and there are many excellent trade schools to help you start your path within our industry. There are also many paths you can start within a store as well. Now is truly a great time to explore your passion and see if a career in our industry is right for you.

When a customer walks into a collision repair facility today, it’s not unusual to be greeted by a female customer service representative.

Gaining education, knowledge and training is very important to succeed. You may face some challenges, but most women I know are very strong-willed and can succeed at anything they put their minds to. Our industry is changing and evolving every day, and with that change, women need to know that there is a place within our industry for them. This is an industry that can be very rewarding both personally and financially.

Earning Respect

It’s critical to earn the respect of your team, partners and customers with hard work and a commitment to excellence. I feel I’ve earned the respect of our employees because I’m engaged and not worried about getting my hands dirty. I try hard every day to lead by example, and while I’m sure there are days that I’m not always well-liked, I feel that my team does respect me. As owners, both my brother and I have a strong work ethic, which in turn demonstrates to our employees that we’re in it with them. This all extends to our relationships with our business partners as well. 

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The perception that women in the collision repair industry can’t do the same job as men has changed, and women are valued and widely accepted now. We’re seeing more and more women become leaders on the technical side of our industry as well. Now, it’s up to us to continue to learn and grow in our chosen career paths in the industry, set examples for everyone working in our collision repair facilities and encourage the next generation of women to embrace the automotive industry.

In the words of the great Dolly Parton, “If your actions create a legacy that inspires others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, then you are an excellent leader.”

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