Shops are not female-friendly and haven’t been for decades. In the face of a massive technician shortage, the industry needs to change its image to appeal more to a broader talent base, a group of female shop leaders advised.
During the panel discussion Women Techs Rock: Filling the Workforce Gap and Readying for the Revolution at AAPEX 2021, the leaders spoke about how the perception of the industry from the outside and attitudes within are only holding the aftermarket back, especially shops.
“There are times that I can tell you that this is not a friendly industry for women,” said Jill Trotten, vice president of sales and industry at RepairPal. “The imagery that is sometimes in the shops — the pictures, the comments that are normalized in that sort of environment — are really exclusionary for women. Comments about bodies and things like that are not appropriate in any workplace. But somehow, at some point, those kinds of things became normalized in shop environments. So we need to take that out.”
From left, Dana Rapoport of TechForce, Jacqui Hower of Zimmermans automotive, Jill Trotten of RepairPal and Kim Auernheimer of CS Automotive
Women don’t generally see a job as a technician as a career option when they’re younger, she added.
Indeed, what if your daughter came up to you and said she wanted to be an automotive technician — what would your first thought be, asked Kim Auernheimer of CS Automotive.
Take a phrase like ‘grease monkey,’ she highlighted. A term like that is a turnoff for women.
“I think that’s something that we in the industry need to take a hold of and take responsibility and correct,” Aurenheimer said.
“That just sets another image of the industry and having a woman or a young woman coming in, that doesn’t paint the right picture.”
Trotten explained that she was a recreational therapist and hated the job. An ad got her interested in being a technician. Her father hated the idea.
“He was like, ‘They’re not going to accept you, they’re not going to help you and it’s not a safe place for you,’” she recalled.
Things didn’t play out exactly as her father said but that doesn’t change the fact that things haven’t changed much in the industry overall in the last 30 years, Trotten noted.
“The image of the industry first has to be corrected. And I think, in general, that’s a start,” Aurenheimer said.