Below are 10 instances where Joe Public is not so sure they want to deal with a lady at the repair shop/car show/parts desk. This a man's turf, so what right do I have to be here, right? I take everything with a grain of salt and usually have a little chuckle at the way the conversation changes as they start to learn more about me. All items on the list are actual conversations I have had personally with customers and visitors, both while working at a Toyota dealership and at DeLorean. So here we go - here are ten things you can expect to hear as a girl working in the automotive industry. Enjoy!
1. While being on staff with a car at a car show and someone wants to know more about it - "Oh, I'm not sure why I am asking you all this. It's not like you would know anything about the car. I know they just hired you to model it for them."
2. "Are you sure you can take my parts order? I just wanted to be sure since you're a.... well, um, you know..."
3. After you explain to a customer what you are doing to their car and why - "Can you have a technician tell me that?"
4. When you are in a conversation and the topic changes to tools - "Oh, you don't have to keep listening. This is just guy stuff."
5. "Is (insert male employee name here) your dad/husband/uncle? Because I know there is no way you'd be working at a car place unless someone was making you do it, am I right??"
6. When you are trying to loosen or pry something and it won't give, and a guy walks by and takes the tool out of your hand to try and show you that it just needs a man's touch, and he can't get it either. Sometimes stuff is just F@#*$&% stuck. It happens.
7. "Are you sure you're following what I'm saying?"
8. Me - "Can I help you?" Customer - "No, I have a technical question."
9. "I'm not sure I want a girl working on my car. You're just going to mess stuff up."
10. Customer - "I am looking for the part that the brake fluid pushes against the brake pads so they contact the rotor and make your car stop."
Me - "Okay, a brake piston. Front or rear?"
Customer - "Oh, so you do know what you're talking about. I knew what it was, I just wanted to make sure that you did, too."
I get it - seeing a female in the automotive industry is still a rare occurrence, although things have been improving in the last few years. As I mentioned in my post on the Toyota training program, I was the only girl in my technician class, and from time to time I am the only girl working at DMC Houston. It's something you come to expect in the field, and I honestly get along better with a group of guys than I do with other ladies, so it is not something that really bothers me on a day-to-day level. Guys tend to be very straightforward with their questions, answers, and issues - and I have a great respect for that. But would I love to see other like-minded females that share the same passion and desire break through the petty belief that a woman can't turn wrenches or understand cars? You bet! We are out there!
I don't really feel like I had all eyes on me at any point in my Toyota training or at DeLorean, or that everybody was staring and waiting to see what "the girl" was going to do or how I would handle something. We all said our hellos and got to work (or maybe they were staring at me and I was just too thick-headed to notice.... who knows?). Did I feel like I needed to prove myself? Absolutely, because I was someone new to the field and also because I knew the accepting environment I was in might not always be my circumstance. But at least, in my case, my desire to push myself was coming from an internal need and not an external pressure.
With that being said, there still seems to be one looming aspect of the job that can still get me blinking in surprise or shaking my head in astonishment - the commentary from the general public and from customers, hence the above list. Now, as far as customers go, these reactions are usually limited to the first time we visit with each other. They are usually turned into believers after that, and some of them actually refuse to speak with anyone else but me in subsequent phone calls and visits. But the amount of grief I have to go through to prove myself sometimes can be staggering. Especially if I ask myself afterwards, would they have said that if they were speaking to a guy? Usually the answer is no, I don't believe they would have.
Please comment and let me know what you think, and if you have seen any similar examples in your workplace, automotive or not, please share them!
Hi, I'm Sarah and I'm a car nut, bird lover, and musician. I have recently transitioned from music teacher to automotive service manager, and there have been lots of cool stories and crazy characters along the way!