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There definitely was a time when the general belief was that a woman’s place was in the kitchen—barefoot and pregnant. But then the feminist revolution was launched, bras were burned, and women entered the workforce en masse.
There is still a small percentage of men who can to this day be heard uttering such ridiculous chauvinistic statements as, “Women shouldn’t be allowed to drive a stick shift because they aren’t mechanically inclined enough to understand how they work.” Bit the vast majority of the population is bright enough to understand that people are people. Both men and women have qualities that make them well suited to the business world.
Enlightenment, however, hasn’t come easily. When the traditional man/woman roles began to change, many men—and even many women—had a hard time accepting women in the workplace. Some industries, especially automotive-related industries, were even less open to this new idea than others. But a few pioneering women preserved and helped open doors.
In this article we will hear women tell their stories about how they were accepted in the limousine industry. The women who entered this industry in the early 1980s share stories of resentment and disbelief, while the newcomers to the industry are happy to report acceptance.
In a nutshell, female livery company operators believe they are more service-oriented than their male peers. They have also parlayed their company ownership to improve their own assertiveness and establish themselves in the business world.
Kay Hoskins, B & K Luxury Coach, Inc. (Hillsdale, NJ)
Kay Hoskins, who currently operates four vehicles, started in this business alongside her husband in 1979. “We began in this industry when my husband Bob started driving shuttle vans,” says Hoskins.
In those early days, Kay was responsible for the “internal” aspects of the business—reservations, accounting, billing, etc.—Bob the “external”—everything related to the vehicles and sales. In 1989, Bob died and Kay had to decide if she wanted to continue with the business. She did.
“It was hard to do it all myself,” says Hoskins. “The most difficult part was getting credit. It wasn’t that I had bad credit, it was that I didn’t have any credit. When I was married, all of our records were in Bob’s name and under his Social Security number.
“Since I needed to get new vehicles, I tried to take out a home equity loan. I was told that since I was generating a certain amount of income, I obviously had a man living with me and helping with the business. Even though I told them this wasn’t the case, they just assumed I was lying and that a woman couldn’t generate this amount of income on her own. What upset me most was that the person at the bank who told me this was also a woman.”
After two years of searching, Hoskins was finally able to find a person who was willing to extend her credit. “I showed him all of my business records and he leased me one vehicle and then a second one. By making the payments on time, I was able to establish my own credit rating.”
According to Hoskins, when it comes to maintenance, she still HAS to establish herself when dealing with a new mechanic. “When I bring a car into a new garage, they will ask, ‘What does your driver say it is doing?’ Usually, I just let a lot these types of comments roll off my back, unless I really get provoked. Then I let my Irish temper take flare. It takes a little while for them to understand that I actually know what the problem is. I try to let them know right away that I have a background in vehicle maintenance.”
Hoskins had a difficult time being accepted by her peers on the National Limousine Association (NLA) board. She was one of the founding members of the NLA and has been an active board member since it was founded in 1985. “Many of the board members didn’t believe women belonged on the board. But each year I have seen more acceptance of our presence. Things are much better now. It was great to se how many women joined the board after this past election. Also, there is a different caliber of men on the board that is much more open-minded.”
While Hoskins has noticed a big change in mentality over the past 17 years, there are still occasions where old-fashioned attitudes prevail. “Most of my corporate accounts don’t have any trouble accepting me as a woman, they just look at me as a fellow business person. But, I do sometimes drive and I find that many of my older male clients have a hard time with this. They don’t like me to carry their luggage or open doors for them.”
Hoskins has no doubt that men and women are equal when it comes to running a livery company. However, she believes there are some things that women can o better. “We are much more service oriented. We take the time to care about our individual clients. I think we are also more specific about scheduling and matching the personalities of our clients and drivers.”
Is this an industry she would recommend other women enter? “As far as a job goes, it is as good as any other. The main consideration is that it takes so much time out of your life. This isn’t a good career for someone with small children in the house. I don’t think I could’ve done it if I had kids.”
Marion McCormack, Sterling Limousines Ltd. (Houston, TX)
Marion McCormack is also a veteran of the limousine industry. Since 1976 she has been involved in various capacities. Her training is in theology and psychology, but one day she decided she wanted a career in a field that wasn’t reserved for women. “I was one of the first women in the automotive industry,” she explains. “If I knew how male-dominated it was, I never would have entered it.”
McCormack began her automotive career as a salesperson for Chevrolet and Cadillac. She then became director of sales for two limousine manufacturers and ran a limousine company for one of her clients. She has been running her current corporation, which includes 11 vehicles, for 10 years.
“I had no desire to run my own business,” says McCormack. “I originally started this company with two other men who were solely financial backers. After about nine months, I found out they were skimming money from the company. I wound up buying them out and becoming a one-person corporation. They only supplied the money, so there was no real difference when they left.
“When it comes to dealing with chauvinism, I haven’t had much trouble there. Because I had the background in the industry, I knew the right questions to ask. Although, I know that chauvinism definitely still exists. I have talked with other women in this industry who told me they have come up against chauvinistic attitudes. All business is male-dominated, especially the automotive industry—which is one of the last bastions of the old boys club.”
According to McCormack, when she was selling vehicles, being a woman worked for her. “My clients would actually say to me they were glad they were dealing with a woman, because they knew a woman wouldn’t cheat them. Granted, that was true for me, but not necessarily for every woman, I am sure that my experience in the automotive industry helped me to be successful because of the contacts I was able to make. The good thing is that I was able to network on someone else’s money. I have seen the industry become more professional in the time I have been involve. I would like to see it keep moving along that same path.
“I know it is a generalization, but I believe women are better at the service-oriented aspects of this industry. We are usually more sensitive to details and get more personally involved. Although, this is not always the case.”
McCormack believes the livery industry can be a good one for a woman. “This is a good industry for a woman with an entrepreneurial spirit. But you need to be very self-motivated and crazy to work the long hours. There is good and bad that comes with the business.”
Barbara Pastelak, Gem Limousine (Edison, NJ)
Barbara Pastelak has been in the livery business for 20 years. She stared her company with three cars and now operates 80 vehicles. “I’ve always owned my own company, which I stared because it seemed like a good idea at the time,” says Pastelak. “I bought my first three cars from someone who was selling his business.”
Originally, Pastelak worked the wedding and vacationing markets because she figured those markets were the ones that utilized limousines. “I didn’t know a whole lot about industry,” says Pastelak. “A year after starting the company, I was talking to a person involved in corporate travel who introduced me to that market. My first year was very tough. It was much easier after discovering the corporate market.”
In the early days, Pastelak also did the driving, in addition to everything else such as washing the cars and taking care of the office. “The day after I drove for a wedding, the bride’s aunt called to book my company for her daughter’s wedding. She didn’t know she was talking with me when she requested that I ‘not send the woman driver because she got more attention than the bride.’
“In 1976, women just weren’t involved in this industry. People kept asking to see the boss and asking when ‘he’ would be in. today, women are much more accepted. People don’t think twice now when a woman is the boss. It isn’t 100 percent yet, but it is leaning that way. Women in this industry have paid their dues. We know a lot about the industry and have treated our clients and employees fairly. That has helped us earn respect. Women have an ability to listen to clients and employees. Men tend to make snap judgments.”
According to Pastelak, the limousine industry is very demanding. “You have to be the right type of person to be in it—it has to be in your blood,” she says. “I had a six-year-old daughter when I started the business and I worked out of my home for the first 15 years. We had no privacy. She was the one who suffered the most. But now she is my right-hand person and is very involved in the business. It’s in her blood, too.”
Jayelyn Thresher, BryLyn’s Chauffeured Transportation (Bonney Lake, WA)
Jaylen Thresher is a relative newcomer to the industry, having started her company about three years ago. Her company currently operates five vehicles.
Thresher really hasn’t encountered many problems with chauvinism, which makes her feel good because it shows that people respect her. “I believe during the time I have been in business, I learned how to become more assertive. I’m not shy now about demanding high quality from my vendors. That is something about me that has changed. I believe that if we treat people with respect, they will respect us in return.
“Until recently, though, I was the only woman on our local association’s board. Next term I will be president. I have also seen more women elected to the NLA board, which is a good sign. This industry offers many good jobs for women—a lot of jobs they might not otherwise think of. Some of the areas they can work in are reservations, accounting, chauffeuring, etc. women add a personal touch to the industry. I have customers who tell me the service is better with female-owned companies.”
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