September '18

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SEPTEMBER 2018 THE SHOP 7 The number of women in the trades is still low. Statistics from 2016 show that women account for only 1.7 percent of automotive service techni- cians. Auto body techs and painters fare a little better at 3.6 percent. Looking at the entire automotive industry, o n l y 2 5 p e r c e n t o f a l l employees are female, and most of them are in clerical, administrative or marketing positions. But there is good news. A labor shortage of men working in auto shops has created an opportunity for women, and a new generation of females is jumping into this industry and making it their own! This growing wave of women has youth, passion and a determination that is impossible to ignore. And the smart shop owner is one who knows this and hires someone who will bring that energy and enthusiasm into their business. For this article I interviewed 35 women, most of whom are under the age of 30. One thing was very clear: all the woman I talked to have a true passion for their jobs. They have stayed on their career paths through many obstacles and they all have a great attitude about what they do. There were countless stories of tri- umphing over adversity, and I wish I could tell each one of them here. Limited by space, here are a few examples. ADVICE, JOURNEYS & EXPERIENCES An old guy once advised me that to succeed as a woman in the trades, I'd have to work twice as hard and be twice as good as the guys. Nearly 40 years later, that hasn't changed. "I think women have to over-prove them- selves to get the respect in the industry they deserve," says Mahia Clure, a painter at Westside Bodyworks. "Some women give up on gaining the respect of the old, grumpy men and leave the industry instead of holding out to get through the process of gaining respect and proving themselves." Most of the ladies willing to give it a go have had a passion for cars from the time they were kids. That seems to be a big part of how happy they are in their careers. Ashley VanDyke began reading car magazines at age 9. But her career path started in the dental industry. It was a great field, but not for her. Her feeling of monotony for that work combined with her pas- sion for automobiles prompted her to change careers. "I felt like there was no room for growth and that I was simply going into work to do my job and go home." Then in 2012, she got a job at Muffler Masters. "I was hired to help the service man- ager at the time, but he quit shortly there- after, along with several other long-term employees who were not keen on having a female in the business. With his departure, I became responsible for all tasks other than paying the bills, IT work, HR work, etc." In 2016, she took an empty storefront next to the shop and opened Accessory Masters, where she does everything from ordering and selling parts to installations. Such versatility is a trait many of the successful women in our industry share. They've trained for one skill and later ended up doing something different. Missy Perez trained and worked as a painter, but had a hard time finding a job. She's now working as a bus mechanic, ser- vicing Caltrain and SamTrans buses. "I have my Class B license with air brake and passenger also," she says. "I do every- thing from simple oil changes to diagnostics and R&R of brakes and alternators. Soon I'll be doing engines and the bigger services." THICK SKIN Women are very in-tune with the world around them. This sensitivity can work Meg Lewis, 32 years old, works at BJ's Automotive. Her love for cars and fixing things started her working in shops when she was 15 years old. At the start of her career, she was three months pregnant and forced out of her job. She found a shop that welcomed her and is now the general manager/head technician. She loves her work. "Nothing can beat the first time I completed an engine swap on my own!" That's me, JoAnn, in 1982, putting a 427 motor in my 1968 Cougar GT Eliminator.

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