Women Driven Spotlight: Kathy Caron

Kathy Caron remembers attending large General Motors functions where she didn’t have to wait in line for the women’s washroom. The reason: not many women worked in the C-Suite at GM.

That was 20 years ago. Today, more women than ever are working at the highest levels not only at GM, but at other auto manufacturers and at dealerships across Canada. “Our industry has come a long way in 20 years in terms of achieving gender parity,” says Caron, General Manager at Hopper Buick GMC in North Bay. “You started to see a shift about 10 years ago, and that trend has continued ever since.”

Caron began her career in corporate sales and car sales with National Car rental, which included finance and insurance and warranty sales. In 2003, she joined Hopper Buick GMC as a Business Manager, and two years later was offered the position of Office Manager with her experience and accounting diploma. She held the position of Office Manager/Controller for nine years with Hopper Buick GMC. During that time, she became involved with the Service and Parts Departments, championing initiatives such as CRM and Health and Safety.

In 2013, Caron was accepted into the General Managers course at NADA University in the US. After graduating from NADA University a year later, she was offered the General Manager position at Hopper GM Buick.

“I’ve been fortunate to work at a dealership that recognizes the abilities and aspirations of both men and women,” says Caron. “We tend to promote from within the organization whenever possible and we’re proud to foster an all-inclusive work environment.”

Caron is pleased to see women today working at all facets of a dealership, in sales, as sales managers, marketing managers, controllers, service advisors, dealer principals and as technicians. Dealerships are recognizing the value of having a diverse workforce where all individuals can thrive and advance according to their skills and ambitions.

Throughout her career, Caron has benefitted from mentors. “In my role as general manager, I am happy to provide support and guidance for colleagues who want to advance their careers,” says Caron, one of five recipients of the 2023 Women Driven Leadership Awards. “I take pride and joy in being able to assist men and women with aspiration to grow and learn this business.”

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.

“I was surprised and humbled that someone would nominate me for a Women Driven Leadership Award,” says Caron. “To win this prestigious award was an incredible honour, and it reinforced my desire to help other women to achieve their goals.”

For Caron, mentorship takes many forms: being a sounding board, offering career advice and leading by example. She admits that the role of mentor can be tricky at times, especially given that four generations work under the same roof at Hopper Buick GMC. “The age differences among staff requires a deft hand, but at the end of the day I’m trying to elevate all employees.”

Caron acknowledges the value of the Women Driven initiative in celebrating the achievements of women in automotive, and in fostering a dialogue about women in the industry. “It’s important to get the message out there that the auto industry welcomes and promotes women,” says Caron. “It’s an industry that’s accessible to anyone, regardless of their nationality or gender. If someone has the drive and wants to succeed, the auto industry is rich with opportunities and you can earn a great living in it.”

For women who are considering a career or a career change, Caron would encourage them to explore the retail auto industry. “Talk to people who work in our industry to learn firsthand what it’s like. Attend job fairs for women. Many women I meet are surprised to learn the many facets of this business and the excellent career potential it offers to men and women.”

When she’s not working, Caron enjoys cottage life and quiet time, sitting by a fire, fishing, kayaking, yoga, and four wheeling in the great outdoors.

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