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‘Mustang Sally’s Now’ aims to empower N.J. women

'Mustang Sally's Now' aims to empower women with its various programs.-(MAPLECREST FORD LINCOLN)

It wasn’t necessarily the fear, shock or bruise to the head that was the worst part about my car brakes giving out on the highway.It was the fact that I would have to endure a tedious search and negotiation process in order to secure a new (used) car — and fast.

And that my gender would become my biggest obstacle in attempting to do so.

The fact that I was a woman mattered to every man who showed me cars on the lot thousands of dollars above my budget. It mattered to every man who tried to pass off obvious issues with a vehicle as minor fixes “they’d take care of.” It mattered to every man who asked if my father was buying me a car for college or for a new job.

I finally became frustrated and began seeking out women to purchase a car from. Due to severe underrepresentation at car dealers, I took to Craigslist — where, although I did not find a car that was right for me, my conversations seemed that much more transparent and honest.

I didn’t think I would find the same qualities at a dealership until a trusted mentor put me in contact with the man who had sold her the car she drives now.

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And I have to admit, I was shocked. Not all salesmen are created equal.

And not all women are either.

If I was having issues — despite the fact that I am outspoken, confident and a good negotiator — I couldn’t imagine the experiences more passive and soft-spoken women might have had.  

Which is why I was thrilled to hear about the “Mustang Sally’s Now: Driving Women’s Leadership” program at Maplecrest Ford Lincoln in Vauxhall. 

Jen Miller — head of brand transformation and consumer experience — agreed this is and has always been an issue of confidence.

“It appears as though generation after generation of women continue to pass along misperceptions that women can’t negotiate well, even though women make more than 80 percent of household purchases,” Miller said.

Miller — who began her career in sports marketing spearheading several national and international marketing initiatives for Nike, World Cup USA ’94 and The Women’s Sports Foundation—currently serves as vice president of Women in Sports and Events and as national chair of WISE Within, the organization’s mentor program.

So naturally, Miller wanted to be able to identify why women have felt so ill equipped to purchase cars on their own.  

“They would bring men in with them to negotiate,” Miller said.

After looking through internal surveys at Ford — which sells to as many men as it does women — Miller put together female-oriented focus groups to discuss their barrier to entry into the auto industry.

The conclusion? Most women “didn’t feel comfortable because they felt as though male salesmen were going to take advantage of them.”

So Miller created “Mustang Sally’s Now: Driving Women’s Leadership,” a monthly series of workshops, speakers, clinics and panel discussions designed to help women build confidence and connections with other women while identifying their personal and professional strengths and building their negotiation, financial and communications skills.

Part of the program will even address how to properly maintain and understand one’s car.  

“What does a five-point multi-inspection mean? When taking out the air filter, what do you need to look for? How do you change a tire?” Miller said.

“We need to start passing down a legacy of confidence that women can understand and do these things, too.”

“The goal in creating ‘Mustang Sally’s Now’ is for women to feel comfortable in taking charge in all aspects of their lives,” said Stephen Giordano, president and owner of Maplecrest Ford Lincoln.

“We are committed to providing women with the tools and resources to be more confident and informed about the entire car buying and service process so that they feel empowered to negotiate on their own.”

The free program will launch on March 11, from 6 to 8 p.m. at 2800 Springfield Ave. in Vauxhall, and will continue to meet on the second Wednesday of each month throughout the year.

Attendees are invited to make a voluntary contribution to United Way of Northern New Jersey Women’s Leadership Council.

And yes — I will be attending — because as bold and brash as I am, that’s not going to help me when my windshield wiper snaps in half and I don’t know how to put a new one on before an impending snow storm.

(True story).

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Joseph Bottitta of Genova Burns urges women to hang out and talk feminism with the guys

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