Leanne Kripp, Head of Motors at Kijiji Canada, Leads and Inspires by Example

People are drawn to the automotive industry for a variety of reasons. Some discover the industry while they’re in school, some follow in their parents’ footsteps, while others grow up loving cars and want to follow their passions. 

Leanne Kripp, an executive leader who steers the Motors business at Kijiji Canada, found her passion and enthusiasm thanks to her mother and her sports cars early on in childhood and was later drawn to the industry for another reason: technology and its impact on automobiles and the auto-buying public.

Kripp joined Kijiji Canada in 2016 where she works on the development and execution of Kijiji’s motors strategy. Leanne leads a talented, cross-functional team who are focused on creating the best possible online experience for Canadians, connecting them to thousands of dealers across the country to find and purchase their next vehicle.

“At Kijiji, our vision is to create Canada’s most loved, most trusted and most valued marketplace, along with a culture that our team thrives in,” says Kripp. “We continue to review, reset and refresh our strategy in pursuit of that vision.”

In the decade that Kripp has worked in the automotive industry, she has witnessed tremendous advancements in online car-buying options and user experiences. She has also seen more women in, and aspire to, leadership positions.

“Many automakers and suppliers have more diversity in their recruitment efforts than a decade ago,” says Kripp. “That diversity has led to more women being hired and more females in leadership positions across the auto industry. It’s important to consider factors to help with gender parity in hiring, such as leveraging gender neutral terms in job descriptions, and having females on interview panels. At Kijiji, for example, we aim to always have at least one female sit on interview panels and we leverage AI to highlight words that might lead to gender biases.”

Kripp points out two well-known examples of women who have broken the proverbial glass ceiling in automotive: Mary Barra, the first woman to become CEO of General Motors and the first ever to hold that title for a major automaker; and Bev Goodman, current President and CEO, Ford of Canada. 

At Kijiji, women play a pivotal role in leadership. “63% of our Autos leadership and 100% of our Autos marketing team is female,” says Kripp. “We are really proud of who is representing our team and we will continue to focus on growing these numbers. I saw a Gender Insights Report statistic from LinkedIn that says men apply for a new job when they meet about 60% of the criteria whereas females tend to only apply when they meet 100%. Whether that statistic is based on a mistaken perception about their own abilities, or about the hiring process, it’s really important to me and our team to help break through these types of barriers by attracting and engaging inclusion-minded individuals who value social equity.”

Kripp acknowledges that women have come a long way in the auto industry in being hired for key leadership positions, but there is still a long way to go. “When younger women see other women in leadership roles, it inspires them,” says Kripp. “You have to see it to believe it; it makes them realize that the sky’s the limit in terms of their career potential. It’s important to educate and inspire the younger generation on their options and the possibilities ahead of them.’”

Encouraging women to aim higher on the career ladder can also be facilitated by mentoring. Kripp says that in the early years of her career, she benefitted from mentors who supported and encouraged her. “Some of those mentors had more faith in my abilities than I did in myself,” she says. “They helped give me the confidence to aim higher.” 

Kripp says it’s important for women leaders to pay it forward. Today, she mentors younger women so that they can see opportunities and realize their full career potential. “Mentoring to me is both counselling and a transfer of knowledge and leadership skills”.

What needs to be done to continue moving the needle for greater gender parity at the leadership level in automotive? “It’s important for women leaders to serve as role models, to speak at school and at industry events, to share their stories,” says Kripp. “Women need to hear success stories, to know that diverse career opportunities exist in automotive, and that there’s never been a better time for women to be heard.” Kripp points out that while automotive retail is much more visible, there is also a thriving industry supporting the auto sector which offers exciting and meaningful careers as well, including software development, engineering, analytics and finance, business operations, and marketing, to name a few.

Kripp believes that hiring more women into senior leadership positions will significantly contribute to changing the bias, which will filter throughout the organization. Employers can create informal and formal networking groups, which are a powerful tool to provide support and guidance to female workers and the advancement of their careers. 

Kripp applauds the MVRO’s efforts to continue the conversation about women working in automotive, and empowering women who work in the industry. “The Women Driven in-person events are great at allowing women in automotive to share their stories on a wide platform, while highlighting the opportunities for women,” says Kripp. “The bottom line for all automotive businesses is this – the more women who work in this industry, the better the industry will be.”

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