Women Driven Spotlight: Edith Pencil

Mentorship has played a key role in Edith Pencil’s career. 

While still a student at 17, Pencil began working as a part-time receptionist at a dealership in Brampton. The General Manager at the store recognized Pencil’s work ethic and eagerness to learn, and she was given an opportunity to learn the different departments of the business.

“Having a few key leaders believe in me early on was fundamental to my success in automotive,” says Pencil, Director of Employee Services at Performance Auto Group. “In 2001 when I started, women who worked at dealerships worked mostly in clerical positions. Today, women work in all areas of the business including sales, fixed operations, and management.”

In 2009, Edith was promoted to Sales Office Manager at Classic Honda, Canada’s largest volume dealer for new Honda vehicles and certified pre-owned used vehicles. She excelled at that job, and in 2014 was asked to build and lead a new Human Resources department from the ground up. 

“The Employee Services department began with three people in HR, Payroll and Safety and it has grown to over 20 today,” says Pencil.  “Diversity is 1 of 6 core values at Performance Auto Group, which operates 37 dealerships and employs over 1,900 people. We are an equal opportunity employer, and we strive to build a workforce that reflects the communities that we serve and operate in.”

 While the retail car industry has evolved towards greater gender parity, Pencil is committed to doing her part in creating more diversity and inclusion in the automotive workplace. She has a passion for mentoring women and students, and enjoys facilitating career panels at high schools and colleges to promote career opportunities in the auto industry. 

 “Students are often surprised to learn about the wide array of careers available in the auto industry,” says Pencil, a recipient of the 2023 Women Driven Leadership Award. “In some cases, students’ ideas about our industry are outdated and want to learn more about it. You never know how your own story may inspire someone to explore career opportunities in this industry.”

Pencil was pleased to win the Women Driven Leadership Award. “On a personal level, it was an incredible honour to be recognized by our industry,” she says. “I commend the MVRO for creating this Award and for shining the spotlight on women. It sends a powerful message that in the auto industry, varied careers and leadership positions are open to people, including women and visible minorities. “I feel incredibly blessed to be a member of the PAG team. When I started with the group in 2001, we had 4 dealerships, today we operate 37 dealerships and 4 body shops. Over the last 22 years, I’ve been afforded countless opportunities that have supported my growth and advancement as a professional and leader. My own employee experience has evolved into an unwavering commitment and passion for developing others through coaching and mentoring.” 

 The Women Driven Leadership Award is presented to individuals who demonstrate a strong commitment to the Women Driven Mission statement: amplifying women to thrive within automotive careers while cultivating a community of inspiration, innovation, inclusiveness and equity.

 When it comes to career advancement, Pencil believes that people can achieve success in business and in life by pursuing your passion, working hard and never giving up. She often finds inspiration from a quote by Michelle Obama that reads “The only limit to the height of your achievement is the reach of your dreams and your willingness to work for them.” 

 Besides mentorship, Pencil is a strong advocate for continuous learning and education. She reads self-help books about personal and professional development, regularly attends conferences and workshops and is constantly learning about new tools, strategies and ideas for work. 

 “This is an industry that is evolving very quickly,” says Pencil. “Since 2001, we’ve seen incredible advancements in technology, vehicle design and performance.” With the recent popularity of artificial intelligence, Pencil thinks it’s inevitable that AI will move into all facets of dealership operations. “AI will enhance, not replace, our business,” she says. “I think that businesses that embrace AI will have a competitive advantage over businesses that don’t.” 

 Pencil’s advocacy for greater diversity extends outside of her own workplace. In 2021, she co-founded Accelerate Auto (accelerateauto.ca), a non-profit organization whose mission is to advance career opportunities for Black talent across Canada’s automotive industry. “As our industry continues to evolve to include more women and people of colour, the automotive landscape will become more representative of the population at large,” says Pencil.

Exciting News! Building on the success of our Mentorship Program pilot, Accelerate Auto is thrilled to launch a new Mentorship Program tailored for women professionals in the automotive sector!

Contact the Accelerate Auto team if you are interested in joining us on this transformative and unparalleled journey as a mentor or mentee by sending an email to mentorship@accelerateauto.ca.

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