Posted by: mackenzienowak | February 20, 2020

“I Had to Learn”

A field that does not have a large representation of women is in the car and truck industry – not in sales, but mechanics. Growing up with a father who is a diesel mechanic I was taught many things about cars that women aren’t “expected to know.” I found that many of my female friends shy away from learning these helpful life tools, as it was too “masculine,” and they could “always ask their dads or male friends for help.” This surprised me because I had always been taught that there is nothing wrong with asking people for help, but why not learn how to do something yourself so that you can help others?

I found an article online about a mechanic named Patrice Banks in Pennsylvania (yes, a female mechanic). She explains that she used to be afraid that car troubles would cause her to get taken advantage of by male mechanics that assumed she didn’t understand anything about cars. Banks said she used to feel more comfortable looking for a female mechanic to work on her car but soon realized that they are few and far between. So, at 31 she quit her job making six-figures as an engineer and went to technical school with a bunch of 19-year-old boys. She enrolled in night classes and worked for free to get hands-on training until she finally opened her own garage in 2016. Girls Auto Clinic is a shop in Pennsylvania opened by Banks and staffed by female mechanics. To make the garage even more appealing to women, Banks opened an adjoining manicure, pedicure and blowout salon.

The reading for Thursday this week asks some really important questions. Just like little girls began asking about the lack of women in the election, one can ask about the lack of women in the mechanic field. It was really interesting to read about the creation of Barbie dolls to get girls excited and hopeful about certain careers. When I began reading more to write this post, I looked online to see what kind of careers kids can dress their Barbie doll up for. I was pleasantly surprised to find judges, doctors, robotics engineers, beekeepers, astronauts and so many other options. I definitely do not remember having so many options when I was a little girl. While Mattel, the main provider of Barbie accessories, does not seem to have a mechanic option available yet, there are other sites that offer accessories similar to what a mechanic would wear.

This relates very well to our article for Tuesday this week by Martha Lauzen. Even though she is discussing film directors, both jobs exist in male-dominated fields. Lauzen writes about human capital theory, which “posits that members of some groups, such as women, self-select out of certain occupations by not investing their human capital to perform at levels equal to members of other groups, such as men” (Lauzen, 2012). More specifically, human capital theory focuses on the knowledge and experiences of small-scale business owners. This obviously relates very well to Banks and her willingness and drive to become a mechanic and open her own shop for other female mechanics. In this reading, it is used to explain why women can oftentimes invest less time and fewer resources than men. Did Banks prove this theory wrong? Why or why not?

Do you think Banks’ method of opening her own female-staffed shop created more separation between men and women in the mechanics field? Was opening an adjoining hair and nail salon a smart move, or do you think it would attract solely female customers? Can you think of any other fields that have essentially no female representation?

Read more about Patrice Banks here:

https://www.npr.org/2018/01/09/576747854/girls-auto-clinic-owner-i-couldnt-find-a-female-mechanic-so-i-had-to-learn


Responses

  1. I do not think Banks’ method of opening her own female-staffed shop created a separation between men and women in the mechanics field. I see it as an opportunity to show younger girls another career choice to aspire to, using the method of “you can be what you see.” Banks, I believe, proved the human capital theory wrong because she literally showed that not all women are disinterested in the discussion and mechanistic nature of cars. Her story represents the epitome of independent thinking and decision making to better not only her life but the lives of other women, further projecting the message that by learning the simple mechanics of your car (i.e. how to jumpstart a car; change a tire; oil change) you can be a transformational leader by facilitating the passing down of information to future generations (i.e. your kids) in showing them how to take care of their cars and the importance behind these actions. When reading the article, I really appreciated Banks’ motivation to be transparent through her communication style, to actively show the customer what she listens, smells, or looks for when trying to diagnose the issue of the car, to then provide an price estimate. I know sometimes when I go to the dealership, the representatives say I need XYZ done, even though I might not need it at the moment. I appreciate honesty from experts in any field I encounter for which I have little knowledge about.

    Of course, I would assume by opening a hair and nail salon, more female customers would be attracted to bringing in their cars for a repair job or an oil change, however, like mentioned in the Missrepresentation movie, there is no evidence that men do not want to go see movies with female leads, so how are we to assume that no men would want to come to a repair shop run by all women? One could argue that more men would want to come to a women-run mechanic shop because they may feel more inclined to open up and ask questions about their car without being in fear of seeming inferior in knowledge about a masculine topic, such as cars, when speaking to a male mechanic. For as we have read in past articles, masculinity is related to competition, whether that be in knowledge or stereotypical strength.

  2. I can honestly say that I have very little to no knowledge about cars. I pretty much just know how to pump gas into my car which is quite embarrassing when I say it out loud. I asked many of my friends if they knew how to do these things and most of my girl friends also didn’t know how to though a few did. I have always wanted to learn how to change a tire or do my own oil change but I never took any real steps towards achieving this. I think that Patrice Banks is someone that everyone should know about.

    I think that Banks’ method of opening her own female-staffed shop did not create more separation between men and women in the mechanics field. Like you said, the field is already male dominated so if anything she is beginning to “level the playing field”. I also agree with Gabby that it is a chance to show young girls that it is not just a male job. It expands the roles and images of what a woman can do. Not only does Banks’ showcase that women can be mechanics but also that they can be business owners and have high positions of power. It is interesting to me that she opened the garage with an adjoining manicure, pedicure and blowout salon. This definitely would invite more women to her garage but may exclude men from it. This could be more hurtful than helpful because it won’t show men how capable and successful her shop is and how well of a mechanic she is. I think men would avoid a shop like this because they already believe women aren’t as fit to be a mechanic and the extra feminine side aspect would deter them even more.

    As far as other fields with essentially no female representation, there are many. Women are extremely underrepresented in the military. There are no Navy SEALs that are women and just recently, in 2015, the training program to be a SEAL was made available to women. There are also no women head coaches of a professional men’s sports team. While progress is slowly being made, women continuously are underrepresented in many fields. There continues to be barriers women face they have just become more subtle and arguably less identifiable. Steps need to be taken to decrease the obstacles women face in order for them to progress in their leadership positions.

  3. I think it is so important that Banks created an all-female mechanic shop. The fear of being taken advantage of in a mechanic shop is a very real one, and it is incredible to have a space like that. I think opening the adjoining nail and hair salon was a really smart move, since her customer base is primarily women, and she recognized that women would have to wait to get their car worked on, and by doing this she is generating more profit in a very easy way.

    Another industry that there is very little female representation is tattoos. Over the summer, I discovered an all-female staffed tattoo shop in Richmond called Black Rabbit tattoo. This shop is incredible and has so many talented women working there. I found out about this shop when one of my favorite artists moved there from Lucky 13, also in Richmond. I got a tattoo from this artist when she was at Lucky 13, and as I walked in I quickly realized that she was one of the few female artists there. Going from that, to an all female tattoo shop must have been so liberating. It also made me think about the barriers that women face going into that industry as well.

  4. I don’t think by creating an all female mechanic shop creates more separation between men and women in the field. I think if anything, it will allow more girls to see that a mechanic is something they can aspire to be. I have always wanted to know how to take care of my car, and I am also embarrassed to admit that I know very little about car repairs and rely on my parents and boyfriend. I remember being shown how to change a tire in high school but I was never able to try it myself, most of the boys in our class rushed to volunteer to show how strong and able they were. I have always been afraid of being taken advantage of or viewed as stupid when taking my car to the mechanic. I think it is amazing that Banks decided to open her own shop with all females. I wish there were more places like hers all around the world. I would feel much more comfortable taking my car to her than some man that knows I know nothing about cars. Banks is someone that many young girls can look up to as a strong woman who learned to do a predominately male job. In another article about her shop, it states that 75% of their clients are female. Do you think men don’t want to take their cars to her shop because they think she is incompetent? Do you think she received any backlash from male clients or media when she opened her shop? What do you think will happen if other women open similar shops around the world?

    https://time.com/longform/girls-auto-clinic/

  5. I too grew up watching my dad fix cars. He never did anything too technical, rather he stuck to basic maintenance like putting air in tires, removing the corrosion from the battery, jumping the car, or refilling the windshield wiper fluid. I was always interested in learning how to do these basic tasks so that I wouldn’t have to ask others for help, but also so that I could do it myself if I found myself in a situation where there weren’t other people there to help me. I never thought of fixing cars as being “too masculine,” I always felt more empowered with each new skill I learned. Therefore, I agree with the statement you made that you don’t think there’s anything wrong with asking people for help, however that people also shouldn’t be reliant on others for help. Just like I said, there could be a point where you won’t have help and must do things yourself, which is why I do think it is beneficial to learn how to do things when you have the opportunity.

    The point that you made about the potential of being taken advantage of as a woman when you bring your car in for maintenance is something that my female friends and I have discussed and also fear. I have female friends who either bring a male friend with them to the mechanic, or they have their dad be in communication with the mechanic to avoid getting taken advantage of. Having said that, Patrice Banks opening the Girls Auto Clinic after leaving a six-figure job so that she could help other women avoid the fear of being taken advantage of at the mechanic is so important. This topic has been discussed in many different readings regarding the importance of women helping women, so I think this is an important step for women in the mechanics industry. Additionally, this also helps the notion of “If you can see it you can be it,” as young girls who see Banks as a mechanic will grow up believing that this is an achievable career for them if they see fit. However, I don’t think that it was necessary to open the adjoining manicure, pedicure and blowout salon as I think establishing the credibility of the shop would already be difficult since it is led by a female and I also think this nail salon will likely pull in mostly female customers. The downside of this being that the female-run mechanics shop isn’t being exposing to men, who most likely need to be convinced the most that that females can be mechanics and to trust females to work on their cars, like Julia said. Therefore, I think it prolongs the false stereotype.

  6. First of all, I love that this woman created her own auto shop after she saw a need for one operated by women. She clearly cared enough about this issue to do something about it, rather than let it continue to be a problem. Any person who sees a need and meets that need is someone to take note of and follow as a leader.

    I do not see any problem with Banks opening up her own auto shop that only employs women. Why? For a few reasons: every auto shop I have gone into has solely been worked by men and I never noticed this until you shined a light on it. Why are only men working in these companies? I do not think it’s because men are “more into” cars than women. If anything, it is because we have severely limited the women in our lives to only a few career options.

    I think this relates to that idea of “if you can’t see it, you can’t be it” because little girls need role models and people to look up to who are doing what they want to do. I think part of the reason we fall in love with certain career fields or jobs is because we have known someone in them that has done a good job. The presence or absence of female role models in certain career fields has a huge impact on the messages we are sending our younger girls. Who are the ones building the skyscrapers? Who are the ones delivering the babies? When a woman chooses to step out of the box for the sake of something she loves, she will likely be followed by a host of other women. We are told as little girls to be the “nurse” or the “mother” in our play-house scenarios rather than the “doctor” or the “lawyer”. When we tell our girls that they can only be mothers and wives (not to discount these roles because they are absolutely necessary and important) rather than opening up a world of opportunity to them, we are creating a narrative that says “you cannot do ___, you can only do _____”. We exclude 50% of our population from contributing to the larger society in meaningful ways.

    I do not think women are not in these jobs for lack of trying, or at least I do not think it’s due to intentional laziness. Like I said before, I think we become our own enemies when we tell ourselves that we cannot achieve something. Women are known to be more critical and apologetic of themselves, as is supported by data. This means that the women who ARE trying or HAVE tried eventually stopped because they believed themselves incapable of such a feat. Laziness is not a factor so much as helplessness.

    Banks has no reason to NOT employ just women, so I have no problem with it. I can see why people would criticize her but maybe what our women need right now is more of a catalyst rather than an inhibitor. I think Banks will likely draw in all people to her shop, simply because it is so different from the norm and people love to get into stuff that seems curious.

  7. I think Banks did manage to prove the human capital theory wrong by investing her time in a male dominated field and succeeding. This proved that not just Banks, but any woman could have the potential to succeed in a typically male dominated field. I think little girls especially need to witness adults breaking barriers such as this so they know that they can invest their energy in whatever interests them without social barriers holding them back. The only thing I dislike about the scenario is Banks need to build an adjourning salon to entice women to come. It makes me wonder if others doubted Banks simply because she was a woman mechanic and business owner and was therefore seen as less competent than a male would be in her position. The opening of the salon seems to revert Banks to her original stereotypical roles and barriers that she just broke as that is a “woman’s domain”. I wonder if others wrongfully assumed that she owned the salon while her husband owned the shop.

    I do not think that her opening of the shop created more separation in the field. I think instead it proved that women have the capabilities to do male jobs and hopefully it blurred the traditional gender roles enough so that males felt they could do typical female jobs. If the situation brought separation, I believe it would only be caused by sexist individuals who do not like change and or believe women to be lesser than men in that field.

    I believe all fields should have close to equal gender representation unless otherwise specified for biological reasons. Women are disproportionately less than high paying fields such as the medical field, law, science, engineering, and labor jobs as they are not seen as being fit for women. However, i have yet to see a woman who did not seem fit to do the same work as a man in a field. I think women are more highly discouraged from certain fields because they are assumed to be incompetent and men are warded from typical female jobs because they are seen as overemotional fields (which men are not allowed to be according to society). This causes high disparity that should not exist in the workforce.

  8. I think that the idea of female mechanics really speaks to the quote that we hear often in class that says that if you do not see someone like you being something you do not think of the idea to become that thing. I have never seen a female mechanic and in all honesty, I have never once thought about becoming a mechanic.

    I do not think that Bank’s method of creating an all-female mechanic store created a divide in the field between men and women. Instead, I think that Bank’s mechanic store gave women a place where they are able to ask questions about their cars where they do not feel judged or like they will ripped off. By putting the mechanic store next to the nail salon, I think Bank’s played into the stereotype of women, that they like getting their nails done. I think this illuminated Bank’s motive more, to have a female clientele rather than just an all-female mechanic store who serves both men and women equally.

    Another field that has almost no female representation is in the field of technology. Not a lot of women work at places that offer tech support. This is harmful because it does not give young girls the option of seeing people like them, females, in these positions. In addition, this is harmful because it leaves women at the mercy of men, forcing women to ask them for help, risking being exploited. Women trust women because it has been forced into us by society that men will harm women which historically, they have. Bank created an environment where women no longer have to keep their guard up which has probably benefited many women but the fact that these all female businesses have to be created so that women feel comfortable speak to how women are treated and what we must do in order to do tasks that men do not even have to think twice about.

  9. When it comes to cars, I’ll admit that I know very little. I have always just kind of accepted that things like changing tires or changing my oil is something I can rely on other people to do for me, which I know is not a great mindset to have. Even when it comes to dropping my car off for inspections at the auto shop, I rely on my dad to take care of everything for me. I had never even really thought about the fact that there are hardly any female mechanics or thought why that could pose a problem. Patrice Banks’ point of feeling like she would be ripped off or taken advantage of by a male mechanic because they assume she would know little about cars is something I could definitely see happening. Like I said, I have never gone to an auto shop by myself because it is obvious I don’t know much about mechanics and could easily be told to pay for more than actually necessary. I think Banks opening her own mechanics shop is fantastic, and even greater that she hired other women to work there as well. I do not really see this as creating a greater divide between genders; it is a means of creating a positive environment for women to go and educate themselves about something they may not be super knowledgable about with people that they can trust and feel comfortable around. When I was reading about this it kind of reminded me of all female gyms for women to be able to go and workout without having to worry about being harassed by men or feeling like they are less entitled to using certain machines or other equipment. While it may seem like these things encourage gender separation, I think of them more as opportunities to encourage women to feel more comfortable and empowered without having to worry about negative consequences based on their gender.
    As for the opening of the salon right next to Banks’ mechanics shop, I think its a very smart business move. Honestly, it does make it convenient for women to be able to get their hair and nails done while waiting for their car to be looked at. I can see how this might encourage more women to go there for their cars. I also don’t think the existence of a salon next to the shop would be the thing to discourage men to be costumers there. Some men may feel conditioned not to trust female mechanics because they don’t think that they could do that sort of job but overall I don’t feel that using the salon to attract more women would necessarily deter men from going there as well.

  10. I don’t believe Banks’ all female staffed mechanic shop creates a separation. I believe it was a smart move to draw attention to the lack of female mechanics. The addition of the salon is also genius because young girls and boys(who will be in the waiting area assumingly or getting a pedicure or something) will be exposed to seeing women as mechanics and the stereotypes of them not knowing about vehicles will wither away as generations pass by. On the flip side, this could add more to the stereotype of women not knowing anything about cars because a salon is seen as more of a feminine thing and because the two things are so close to each other the thought process might be that the salon is better than the mechanic shop because a salon is more of a woman’s expertise. It would be the same if you flipped it, what if a man were to start an all male salon or nail shop, would females trust a man with their services? There are different perspectives on both sides of the argument. Personally the walmart i go to for an oil change has an almost half female staff and i have no doubt in their abilities. in terms of the human capital theory, i would say she proved it wrong because not all females self select out of occupations and there are cases where women get the education that is needed and acquire resources to be what they want to be and not let the odds stop them.

  11. I believe that the female-only mechanic’s shop is a step in the right direction, but it is not the solution. I think you are correct in assuming that this female-only mechanics shop will attract mostly women to them, however I think it is a good thing for women to see other women in the field in such a welcoming environment. It gives young girls the opportunity to see how strong and successful women can be as mechanics and isolates those attributes in a women-only workplace. Eventually the long term solution would be to have men and women working together in mechanics shops, but I feel like since women are not well known in the field yet and there is a strong stereotype that women aren’t good with cars, there will be a lot of sexism in the workplace when women start working with male mechanics. This could be very discouraging to many and certainly not something future female mechanics should be exposed to right off the bat. So I feel like having a women’s only mechanic shop is a good idea to inspire women to become mechanics and once female mechanics become more accepted, integration will be a lot easier of a transition.


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