Auto Service World
News   January 11, 2022   by Adam Malik

‘This is not a friendly industry for women’

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.

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2 Comments » for ‘This is not a friendly industry for women’
  1. Rob Nurse says:

    I think the title should be “This is not a friendly industry for people”. I think instead of trying to sucker women into this field, we should be trying to keep our young men that are already involved in this career for their life time.
    You see to actually become a great technician one has to persevere 10,15, 20 years of continual failure. A three year apprentice course does not prepare anyone for what they will experience through out their careers in this industry. The only way to get good is to go through the trials and tribulations this industry has to offer. Unfortunately the trials out-weigh the tribulations, forcing our young techs out of this industry to soon.
    It takes a certain type of person, regardless of man or women to be able to remain in this industry for their entire career. Most of us that stay have a vision of one day removing ourselves from the bay. The problem is we all cant be CEO’s.
    We need to give hope to our young technicians that they can eventually evolve into shop ownership so they will remain in this industry. They can only do this by starting out with a smaller “mom and pop” type shop and by remaining in the bays. There is no automotive technician making a salary to be able to afford a 20 + bay facility.
    Our industry has falsely promoted an “illusion of grander” type business which is scaring everyone out of our industry. What we need to do as an industry is keep track of the time line technicians are leaving and analyze why they are leaving. Then we need to provide them with the tools and knowledge to remain in the bay while owning and operating their own businesses. I believe it is better for our industry and the consumer to have many smaller “mom and pop” type shop businesses than to have fewer larger “CEO” type shop businesses. If the average male technician is leaving our industry after 10 years, how long do you think a female technician will last before they are forced to make a career change. I believe females technicians will only make the revolving door spin faster than it already is, creating more less experienced technicians, frustrating the consumer and helping to make the automobile another throw away item in the already saturated throw away society we live in.
    The problem in this industry is everyone wants to be a part of it, just no one wants to be in the bay.

  2. John Creasy says:

    The biggest issue for women in auto repair is sexism, sexual harassment and sexual assault from male techs. There’s such a shortage of techs (because women don’t want to be techs due to how female techs are treated) that companies don’t care who they hire and don’t look at criminal history. I have heard of horrible, violent things happening to female techs for having the sheer audacity to just try to do their jobs. Thank you to our brave men and women in blue for getting involved and keeping some of these women safe.

    Auto industry as a whole needs to smarten the hell up and make itself safe for women or it’s going to continue its downward spiral. The boy’s club isn’t worth the suffering it causes nor is it worth stunting productivity and profits (less women = less techs, less work done, less business).

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