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Newsletter - Spring 2020 Print

Women with Drive

Greetings AWAF Members,

The world has completely changed since our last newsletter.  The coronavirus has had an unprecedented impact on the world – and, closer to home, on our auto industry and on AWAF.  We postponed our members-only Fireside Chat featuring Pam Heminger, VP, Strategic Procurement, Caterpillar and our second Virtual Happy Hour featuring Olga Alavanou, VP Global Sales at Lear Corporation.  Since SAE WCX was cancelled, so was the AWAF-hosted speed mentoring lunch featuring many of the 36 leading women in the auto industry who wrote chapters of the book “The Road to the Top is Not on the Map”.  If you haven’t read the book yet, you definitely should.  These women talk about career challenges, work-life balance, and many other topics that have never been more relevant.   

Despite the enormous challenges the industry faces, OEMs and suppliers large and small are coming together to make a difference.  Plants are being converted to produce masks, face shields, respirators and ventilators.  The auto industry is becoming the “Arsenal of Health” just as it became the “Arsenal of Democracy” decades ago.  I am inspired by these efforts as I am sure you are too!

AWAF looks forward to the end of the pandemic and is planning for its 25th Annual “Swinging FORE Scholarships” golf outing on Friday, August 21 at Forest Lake Country Club in Bloomfield Hills.  The format for this year’s event is different than past golf outings, with nine holes of golf in the late afternoon followed by dinner and entertainment, a fitting celebration for a silver anniversary.  The golf outing is our biggest scholarship fundraiser of the year, so be sure to put that date on your calendar.  Also coming up in the fall are AWAF’s signature “Pumps & Power” as well as our December Holiday Event.

AWAF needs a chairperson (or two) for its Mentoring committee.  This is a chance to help and influence past scholarship recipients, often young women, on how to navigate the automotive and mobility industries, a particularly important role given these challenging times.  Please consider whether you can contribute to this important part of AWAF’s mission.

We are always looking for new ideas to fuel women’s progress in the automotive and mobility industries, so please let us know what’s on your mind and if there is anyway we can help you.  Please stay safe and I look forward to seeing you at an upcoming AWAF event!


Sue Rokosz
President, AWAF


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Save The Date For These Upcoming Events

Thursdays in April - Virtual Happy Hours from 4 to 5 pm
Join us to share how you are adapting the changes due to COVID-19 and learn from others what they are doing too. This is a great way to connect with others in the automotive industry virtually. They are free but you must pre-register. A Zoom link will be sent to you once you register. 
Register for April 23 Virtual Happy Hour.

Register for April 30 Virtual Happy Hour
Register for May 7 Virtural Happy Hour

Coming soon. AWA Development committee is working on Virtual Programs for May and June. Watch for email announcements in early May.  Professional Development committee is working on Virtual Programs for May and June. Watch for email announcements in early May.

SAVE THE DATE: 25th Swinging FORE Scholarships Annual Golf Outing, August 21, 2020, Forest Lake Country Club. This annual golf outing raises funds for AWAF's Scholarship program, which supports women in the quest for a career in automotive. In honor of our 25th year of this fundraiser, we have changed the format a bit so those who don't golf can still celebrate with us. Those who golf will enjoy 9 holes of golf in the late afternoon and then join others with an evening celebration of dinner and entertainment. We will also have our annual silent auction that includes lunch with executives. Registration will open in late spring.

THE ENGINE OF AUTO TECH INNOVATION, August 18-20, 2020, Suburban Collection Showplace, Novi, MI. AWAF is excited to be part of this event put on by TU-Automotive. EAC member Julie Martin will will be as speaker at this event on the topic of negotiations. For more information here

SAVE THE DATE, Wednesday, December 2, 2020, 5:30 pm, Annual Holiday Party. Join us at the Cauley Ferrari in West Bloomfield where you can enjoy some holiday cheer, network with fellow automotive colleagues and be inspired by Lisa Drake, Ford Motor Company, COO of Ford North America and Vice President, Global Purchasing. Registration will open in the fall.


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Past Event Highlights

Making new connections, learning new skills and golfing were all part of our past events. To see all the photos for these events, visit our photo gallery here.

Pumps & Power on November 5, 2019.
 Over 50 women attended this fun event that combines shopping with learning.  Karina Morley, Global Chief Engineer – Battery Electric Propulsion System Powertrain for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles gave some tips on how to handle the challenges of new technology implementation  To read more about the event, see this article by Chasidy Rae Sisk, published in Autobody News.

On November 12 we had our first Virtual Happy Hour with Carla Bailo, a leader in the Automotive Industry. Twenty women particiated in our first ever virtual event.  Carla will shared insights on the book The Road to the Top is Not on the Map: Conversations with Top Women of the Automotive Industry, published by SAE in collaboration with Inforum and the Center for Automotive Research.

Annual Holiday Event, December 5, 2020. Over 120 people attend this annual event with Guest Speaker Christine Sitek, Executive Director Global Purchasing & Supply Chain at General Motors.At this event, we also honored three individuals for their contributions to the automotive industry with our first ever AWAF Awards (see article below). To learn more about the event, please read this article by Chasidy Rae Sisk, published in Autobody News.



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Scholarship Recipients

At our holiday event in December 2019 we awarded these five women scholarships:

Ariel Andrews
Geraghty Anne Ellis Abigail Hempy Sophia Kraus Emily Walker

For bios click on their name or visit our past scholarship recipient page for all bios and all of our scholarship recipients.



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Industry News

At the 2019 AWAF Holiday Event we honroed three individuals with an AWAF Award. This was the first year for these awards, which are designed to celebrate and honor the achievements of women and change champions who live the AWAF mission of advancing and empowering women in the automotive industry. 

Maureen LaFontaine will receive posthumously the Industry Achievement Award. This award honors a woman who has made an outstanding contribution for at least ten (10) years in the automotive industry while also making a difference by promoting and supporting her fellow women to achieve their automotive career aspirations.

She co-founded LaFontaine Automotive in Highland Township with her husband. To ensure she knew how to run the family business in case something happened to her husband.  She started selling cars and then in 1984, she became a dealer, running what is now the LaFontaine Group’s largest store. She attended Harvard Business School and her vision led the company to become the first dealership to receive a General Motors Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Certification.  She was the mastermind behind the "Family Deal" — a recognized brand. Past honors include 2009 Most Powerful and Accomplished Women in Business Leaders (Inforum), 2010 Top 100 Leading Women in Automotive (Automotive News), 2014 Women's Automotive Association Spirit of Leadership, 2019 Northwood University Distinguished Women Honoree and 2019 NADA Show Top 10 Favorite #WomenInAutomotive contest.  A strong supporter of AWAF and its mission she served on our Executive Advisory Council for several years and LaFontaine Automotive and Maureen have consistently supported our largest fund-raiser Swinging Fore Scholarships Golf Outing.

Sara Mohon will receive the Emerging Leader Award: This award honors a woman who has been in her career 10 years or less and has demonstrated outstanding performance, as well as leadership in her professional work and the community.

Sara currently works at BorgWarner as an Electrified Powertrain Engineer where she develops simulation models and control strategies for electrified powertrains.  Sara has a PhD in Automotive Engineering. Through her research she built a new Electric Hybrid Powertrain Integration Laboratory at Clemson University. Her Ph.D. dissertation work resulted in a new algorithm to diagnose faults in any system that uses less expensive sensors and she was also awarded a US patent on Systems and Methods to Determine the Condition of a Battery. In her past four years at BorgWarner, Sara has led the development to WISE (Women in Science and Engineering) within BorgWarner to help find ways to promote STEM careers in the local community. A past AWAF scholarship recipient, Sara is actively involved in AWAF’s STEM initiatives providing support and ideas to encourage young women to go into STEM fields.

Dr. Craig J. Hoff, P.E.  will receive the Change Champion Award. This award recognizes a man or company who has contributed significantly to the acceptance and advancement of women in the automotive industry

Dr. Hoff has been an advocate for women his entire career. He is the driving force to increasing female faculty at Kettering University in the engineering program. In 2012 when he became Department Head of Mechanical Engineering there were only three female faculty members. Under his leadership he increased this number by 30 percent. Currently he is Dean of the College of Engineering where he has been responsible for hiring 14 new faculty members with 50 percent of them being women. Dr. Hoff has stated, "He wants every kind of student to have a strong role model teaching them, especially young women." He has personally mentored and coached many female engineering students and helped them design the educational path that would lead them to success. Dr. Hoff is supportive of the student section of the Society of Women Engineers, even attending the national conference in 2018.


Magna developed a Smart Start-Up Interactive Playbook for getting back to work in the “new normal” as our business recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic. It provides a framework for restarting our office locations and facilities with a consistent response and strategy throughout the company while protecting employees and making sure everyone stays safe, healthy, and confident about returning to work.

Magna consider the contents of the playbook to be best practice and wants to share for others to be able to use as a guide.

Read the Smart Start-Up Interactive Playbook.

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STEM Presence


The AWAF STEM committee kicked-off the 2020 year at full throttle

Kicking off the year with a meeting of the minds, the STEM committee reviewed 2019 events and notes and shared ideas on what worked, what didn’t work, what can we do better and how best to utilize our capital and human resources to maximize our efforts to reach as many females as we can to inspire them to seek STEM related future careers in the automotive industry.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic we are re-thinking how to best hold STEM related activities this year.  Most likely, our STEM engagements with students will be virtual for 2020.

Plans for 2020 included building upon our partnership with U of D Mercy’s Science Technology Engineering Preview Summer (STEPS) program which we participated in last year.  This year the program is called The Science & Engineering Exploration Camp (SEEC) and will no longer be inclusive to only girls and will include boys. We planned on hosting an entire half or whole day with them to allow more time to complete a hands-on activity and for follow-up discussions.  However, due to COVID-19 the decision on whether U of D Mercy will hold the camp is up in the air.  Most universities have cancelled their summer programs.

One thing we learned in 2019 is that females as young as those in 7th, 8th and 9th grades have not yet decided what to do with their future; their minds are not yet thinking about a career, yet alone set on a career.  We believe at this age we can have the greatest impact on showing them opportunities and giving them guidance and inspiring them on what careers to seek. 

This year we plan on doing more outreach with junior high schools and working on building a bridge between junior high and senior high schools with our STEM events and discussions.  The transition to high school is stressful and with so many choices this will give the females and AWAF the opportunity to walk with each other and learn from each other in hopes that no females are left behind. 

Our goals include having this bridge go full circle and extend from junior high to high school to a career in STEM and back to AWAF.  Females inspiring females, inspiring females.  Giving back.

With plans on partnering in a couple of STEM events in 2020 and possibly hosting a small event on our own, the sky is the limit.  If you have any ideas, please feel free to share them with us.  We are especially looking for ideas for virtual STEM activities.

We are looking for volunteers for our STEM Committee and for our STEM events. If you are interested, please contact Debbie at [email protected].

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Membership Corner

AWAF has created a new alliances with Madonna University. We had our first event with Madonna University on Feb 11, 2020 where it hosted leadership lecture called Business Matters. The speaker was our friend Christine Sitek, General Motors Global Purchasing & Supply Chain Executive. AWAF was represented and spoke to the students about membership, benefits, and scholarship opportunities. A few students came and asked us more after! 

On Friday, Nov. 1, 2019, AWAF's EAC member, Marion Wells was the emcee for the Focus:  Hope – Sneakers & Speakers event at the Lear Innovation Center in Detroit.  Many professionals turned out to watch three amazing leaders Joshua Edmond – Dir. of Digital Inclusion, Marlin Williams – Asst. VP for Economic Development, WSU, Ivana Kalafatic, Founder - 2Gather and Paul Riser – Dir. of Detroit Urban Solutions, Tech Town answered the intriguing questions which prompted discussion on Diversity and Inclusion.  These “Who’s Who in Technology” speakers highlighted the innovation, technology and community impact in the technology ecosystem in Metro Detroit.  Marion did a fantastic job of keeping the questions pertinent, relevant as the speakers provided answers that were fun, moving and strategic for the entire group.  Pictured with her are AWAF board members Kellie Treppa and Kim Ziomek.

Volunteers needed.  
Want to become more involved with AWAF and help advance women in automotive? We have committee and board chair roles open.

Seeking Mentoring Co-chairs. This is a board position. Lead the coordination of our mentoring program that matches current and past scholarship recipients with AWAF members who are established in the industry. As a board member you would be expected to also attend monthly board meetings (4th Wednesday of the  month from 7:30 am to 8:30 am in person or by phone) and attend as many of our in-person events that fit in your schedule.

Seeking 2 to 3 people to join the Professional Development Committee to assist with technical needs related to virtual programming. Role would include managing tech details of actual workshops, overseeing processes to test run with speakers, recording and loading onto website, making sure participants are able to join, facilitate questions from participants, etc. 

You would work with AWAF administrative office to set up the Zoom meeting and necessary parameters.  Meet initially by phone or Zoom with administrative team to understand AWAF's administrative role and what AWAF has access to capability-wise. Manage test run with speakers. And, act as administrative facilitator during the professional development segments (let registrants into the meeting, facilitate questions with participants, mute and unmute people if necessary, other technical issues during meeting).

Time Commitment in this role is estimated to be: 1-2 hours/week when virtual workshops are scheduled supporting various team tasks as mentioned in the above role description.  Number of virtual workshops is TBD, but expect to offer at least 4-6 over the next few months.

If interested, in any of the above opportunities, please reply with your contact information to  [email protected]



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Support AWAF through Amazon Smile

With the holiday seasong just around the corner, please remember that AWAF is a listed charitable organization through AmazonSmile. By designating Automotive Women's Alliance Foundation as your favorite charity, Amazon will donate 0.5% of the price of your eligible AmazonSmile purchases to AWAF. AmazonSmile is the same Amazon you know - same products, same prices, same service. 

Click here to designate the Automotive Women’s Alliance Foundation as the organization of your choice to support and make sure when you shop through Amazon you are shopping on the AmazonSmile website.

“AmazonSmile and the AmazonSmile logo are trademarks of, Inc. or its affiliates."


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