The demand for automotive, collision, and diesel technicians in 2021 exceeded the number of techs completing their certification by more than 500 percent, according to a recently released report by the TechForce Foundation. If the industry is going to meet the demand for 539,000 technicians by 2025, it has to start getting more women into the industry. (The supply was only 48,000 in 2020).
But how can we make this happen? The report titled “Women Techs: Solving the Tech Shortage Problem” outlines a variety of ways employers, parents, schools, and the industry in general can get involved.
How to get more female technicians
1. Reduce gender bias in the workplace
One of the biggest barriers to having women enter the automotive industry as technicians is the gender bias they face. A staggering 100 percent of women interviewed by TechForce for the report all said they encountered gender bias on their path to becoming a technician. The report included women from the entire transportation industry, including automotive, aviation, marine, motorcycle, and small engines.
Auto repair shop owners play a major role in this. Take a hard look at your culture. Are the technicians still posting pinup posters in the locker room? Do you offer a safe space free of harassment and inappropriate comments? Have you thought about the specific needs a female technician may have, such as needing a private breast pumping room, tools for smaller hands, women’s uniforms, and a women’s locker room?
“When they are out there looking for a job, these are the things they are going to consider now,” said Dana Rapoport, chief of diversity and inclusion at the TechForce Foundation. “But the culture is really what matters the most to these women. Employers need to start thinking about what mechanisms they have in place to accommodate a diverse workforce.”
If you don’t know where to start, a great resource is the Centre for Automotive Inclusion and Advancement (CADIA).
2. Provide growth opportunities for female techs
An overwhelming number of women interviewed for the report spoke about how they want to be treated fair and equitably — the same as everybody else in the shop. They want to be noticed not because they are female, but because they are really great technicians, and they want to be provided the same opportunities.
“We see a lot of women get a new job, and then they're stuck on the lube rack for a really long time. Men are moving quicker. Things like that still happen,” Rapoport said.
All women techs interviewed for the report stressed the desire to continue learning and expanding their skillsets. Nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of techs interviewed indicated a correlation between job satisfaction and growth opportunities. However, the majority of these women said their career aspirations were squashed because they were female, and 63 percent of them said they left a job that limited their growth.
“We run the risk of losing that person from the profession if they feel like that employer’s not moving them forward,” Rapoport said. “We can't do that. Not with this kind of need and demand out there.”
3. Encourage young girls to join the industry
The report found that 93 percent of women techs across the entire transportation sector said they were discouraged from becoming a technician when they were children. Societal pressures have led many women to believe this line of work “wasn’t something a girl was supposed to consider as a career,” the report said.
As shop owners and technicians currently in the industry, you can have a big impact on shaping the younger generation’s view of becoming technicians themselves. Get your daughters, nieces, and friends interested at a young age.
“When you're out there tinkering, take your kid along," said Rapoport. "When you're going to a car show or an event, take your kid along. If you do have a great car or someone you know does, don't be afraid to let that kid in the driver's seat. "How can we expect them to get excited over the possibilities if we build walls around them? So, let's take those walls down.”
If they are a bit older, you can talk to them about the scholarships and grants available specifically for women learning a trade and direct them to TechForce for more information and a great support network.
“You've got to inspire them young and get them excited," Rapoport said. "Drive their enthusiasm. You can't just do that without showing them the way, the path, the resources. Give them real world examples. Share stories, talk to them, share pictures of women doing what you're talking about.”
The business advantage of hiring women
Aside from the obvious need to fill the open spots for technicians at your shop, there are distinct business advantages to having a diverse workforce.
“Women and men are different and that’s a good thing! Different perspectives offer creativity and problem solving, leading to higher customer retention, enhanced innovation, ad increased profitability,” the report said.
According to Rapoport, women are amazing problem solvers who pay special attention to detail. They also see the personal side of the work, not just the technical challenge.
“Their connection to their work is totally different. They don’t just say, ‘I’m working on a car today.’ They see this car is going to get a family to dinner, going to get a family to their jobs, going to get them to the grocery store, take the kids to school. They sort of see a whole picture behind it,” she said.
Plus, having more women technicians on staff will help attract other passionate, qualified female technicians who see your workplace as a welcoming place for them.
“Even though they may have faced adversity, they are like, ‘Okay, well, I’m going to find my way forward and I’m just going to go for it,'” Rapoport said. “These women are passionate, motivated, ambitious, and I'm sorry, I'll just say it: These are some badass women!”