Mobility

Increasing Gender Diversity in the Auto Service Industry

Several years ago, I worked as a contracted project coordinator for a Paul, MN-based non-profit. The project was based on a US Department of Labor grant designed to move more women into male-dominated positions within the auto service industry. The specific positions we focused on were auto service technician, aka mechanic, service advisers (write up the repair order), and parts workers (sell auto parts).

The project lasted three years and part of my role was to meet with service managers at Twin Cities based auto dealerships to encourage them to recruit and retain women in the positions mentioned above. I have to admit it was the most exciting project I have worked on! The goals included increasing awareness of careers in the auto service industry, increasing enrollment and retention of the number of females in auto service programs at local technical and community colleges, and increasing the number of females working in nontraditional roles within the auto service industry.

Guidance through Advisory Committee

We formed an advisory committee consisting of a representative from the local union, an apprenticeship representative, a female auto service technician, an auto service technician instructor, a representative from the local automobile dealers association, and the two of us working on the project. The purpose of the advisory committee was to provide guidance toward reaching our goals and also to help troubleshoot and problem solve.

Gender Stereotypes

While some of the dealerships had a "token" woman in one of the male-dominated roles, many did not. One service manager with whom I met said to me, "We hired a woman once and she didn't work out." I was flabbergasted! It appears that he saw that "one" woman as representing all women and because she didn't work out, there's no use trying another woman. Biting my tongue, I thought to myself, what about the men that didn't work out?

Inaugural Networking Event

As part of the project, we coordinated a first of its kind networking event for women in the auto service industry. Invitations were sent out to women working in the male-dominated roles. A notable female owner of a leading Minneapolis based auto dealership was the keynote speaker, encouraging the women attendees to continue following their passion. Many of the participants commented on what a great evening it was to be around other women in the field, as oftentimes they may be the only female at their dealership, with the exception of administrative staff.

Career Open House

Another event that we put together was a career open house to provide female high school students the opportunity to learn more about careers in the auto service industry. We collaborated with a local technical college that offers an auto service program. Two graduates of the program spoke about their experience working in the field. Attendees were given a tour of the department and participated in a hands-on activity that involved disassembling and reassembling a steering component.

Given a long leash, the other project coordinator and I were granted the freedom to "do what it takes" to meet our goals- which were always met and often exceeded. I hope you can use some of these strategies for creating awareness of your nontraditional CTE class or program.

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