My friends know that I’m rarely embarrassed by this industry.
They sometimes make fun of me for my relentlessly positive editorials, in which I praise the army of skilled Canadians who keep our cars on the road.
Even when there are claims of unethical business practices, I don’t condemn until I’ve asked enough questions to determine if the storyteller was really treated unfairly, or simply rendered indignant by the cost of a difficult job.
I’ll stand with the aftermarket any day of the week.
But there have been times when I’ve visited shops and spoken with readers and been shocked by some extraordinarily backward views about women. Some of those views were recently documented in a study by the Automotive Industries Association of Canada.
The AWAKE report – partially funded by the federal government – records the experiences of women in the aftermarket… and the reading is difficult in places.
It reports that in the course of their work, female employees in our male-dominated industry have routinely experienced humiliation, discrimination, and even harassment. They’ve been spoken down to, ignored, passed over for promotion, hit on, and disrespected. Many of the stories, told by anonymous voices, are enough to make any rational man cringe with embarrassment.
The report rightly suggests these stories “offer sobering insights into existing barriers to women’s advancement.”
I recognize and appreciate the differences between men and women… but they are clearly not as vast as once supposed. I honestly can’t think of a trade that women could not excel in. Anyone who says women aren’t smart enough to follow a wiring diagram or strong enough to turn a wrench is crippled by prejudice. Anyone who thinks their male technicians or customers are not ready for women technicians are listening to the wrong people. There is no longer any room for misogyny in our industry.
It is shameful, in our enlightened age, to see pictures of naked women on shop walls, or to hear sexist comments in service bays, at parts counters, and in corporate offices at every level of our industry.
If women lack opportunities in the aftermarket, it is because small-minded men have denied them. We need to make this right. We need to remove the barriers to entry and promotion. We need to make our workplaces not only welcoming to women but comfortable enough for them to want to stay. We all need to challenge sexism when we see it.
It’s time for us to grow up.
The Automotive Industries Association of Canada has done an admirable thing in tackling this difficult problem. They’re right in calling for an end to sexism in our industry. I’d like to add my voice to theirs. We need great technicians, service advisors, managers, and shop owners in this industry. There’s no reason why half of them should not be women.
Women have long demanded respect, equality, and fairness in all aspects of life. Surely we’re progressive enough, here in the automotive aftermarket, to make that a reality in our workplaces.
Please let me know what you think. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.