When I stopped operating car washes over 25 years ago, there were few women in the industry and virtually none in management or ownership. According to the Women in Carwash Association, women now make up 20 percent of the industry’s leaders.

            The mission of Women in Carwash is like that of the International Carwash Association — educate, inspire, motivate, and energize. It delivers expert-level presentations, hands-on workshops, discussion groups, open forums, and networking opportunities.

            The conference has a newsletter (Learn), and it will celebrate its 10th event this summer at the Hilton Salt Lake City Centre in Utah. Recent conferences have been sold out. Arguably, this should be expected.

            According to the Bureau of Census, 83 percent of the car wash workforce is men, and only 17 percent are women. Of course, parity doesn’t have much to do with success in the car wash industry. Sticking to the fundamentals does.

            When people ask me about working or investing in the car wash industry, I always advise them to begin by determining how well their traits match up with the characteristics of the industry.

            A car wash attendant or store manager might be the best fit if you have an outgoing personality. If you enjoy working with your hands, a maintenance or repair tech career is an option. If an office environment is desirable, car wash administration, project development and construction, finance, and real estate are avenues to consider.

            Some years ago, I wrote about a young woman who started up an on-demand, mobile, waterless car wash and detail business while working on her master’s degree in engineering at Penn State University. Within two years, she had become self-sufficient and had eight employees working for her. Her success can be attributed to a location with sufficient unmet demand, modest start-up expenses, and a commitment to clean, shine, and protect customers’ vehicles.

            If ownership is the goal, then location, capital, and commitment have more to do with success than what sex you happen to be. If the dream is building a $5 or $6 million express exterior, it doesn’t matter if you are a man or a woman. You will need about $1 million. On the other hand, there is a generation of operators nearing retirement. Many of these sites will not be a good fit for acquisition by a consolidator and may not be of much interest to the children or family members. Moreover, there never seems to be a shortage of self-service properties that need a new owner-operator.

            Women have made inroads. Today, there are women CEOs, VPs, maintenance directors, site managers, maintenance techs, and owner-operators. According to Women in Carwash’s Brenda Johnstone, participation in and sponsorship of the bi-annual conference has grown steadily.

Bob Roman is a car wash consultant and can be reached at bobr427@protonmail.com.