In 1993, the Detroit chapter of Women’s Automotive Alliance International (WAAI) was founded. It all started with a casual lunch of 12 women from many different areas of the automotive industry who wanted to connect and share experiences with other women in their fields. Most of the automotive industry was dominated by men and these women were excited to form a group where they could provide support and encouragement for each other.
Fran Bachmann was one of the 12 women who lead the charge to establish WAAI. She worked at an automotive dealership where she was the first women to be hired as a salesperson. She was also the original Events Director. Events have always been the cornerstone for connecting, learning about the field and raising funds to support women in the industry. These events, some formal and others more intimate, created a forum for frank conversation and facilitated women networking with those they would not normally come in contact with.
In 2001 that group of women broke from the WAAI, and formed the Automotive Women’s Alliance Incorporated. While the purpose was primarily the same, AWA, Inc. decided to focus largely on a scholarship program that would support the future of women in the automotive industry. In 2002 the Automotive Women’s Alliance became a Foundation (AWAF), and achieved non-profit status.
Today, AWAF maintains the mission from their inception in 2001, and has awarded over $170,000 in scholarships to women pursuing careers in the automotive industry. There are more than 200 members from all areas of the industry, at all career levels. AWAF believes giving opportunities for young women just starting their careers to meet experienced top-level professionals is just as important as the opportunity for those top-level professionals to inspire the future of the industry.
Proceeds from events, including the annual golf outing, are used to provide these scholarships to women who are either entering into or seeking to further their careers in the automotive field. AWAF is always looking for new members who can bring a new perspective to this exclusive group of women. Recruiting for members comes mainly through events, panels, social functions, fireside chats, and the annual golf outing.
“In the future, we will to continue to listen to the voice of our membership and offer relevant programs to add value to their careers and aspirations. We also hope that AWAF will grow into a global organization, enabling women from around the world to be a part of AWAF chapters, divisions or “subsidiaries” in their regions. We become more powerful with greater reach.” – Kim Ziomek, Past President of AWAF