A Win for Women, Dealerships, and Consumers
Earlier this year, Fox began shooting a pilot sitcom called “Patty’s Auto” inspired by Patrice Banks’ auto clinic.
Statistics show that women make up somewhere between just one and two percent of all service technicians in the U.S. There are several reasons why the number is low, but given the growing demand for techs – and the fact that the job is widely considered a good one – there’s a big opportunity for more women to enter the field and help dealerships meet the demand.
For one thing, somewhere around 77 percent of people who bring their car into the dealership for service are female. Many people actually prefer to work with a female tech.
“There are a lot of reasons why having women in this role is a great thing,” says Stacey Smith, Executive Recruiter of Technicians for Automax Recruiting. “It is a good job, and women are good at it. They can build long-term relationships better. And since more women bring cars in for service than men, it can be a real bonus to have a female tech there to relate to.”
That’s how Patrice Banks felt. Along with Smith, Banks is a leader in making a path for women in the industry. Years before she opened Girls Auto Clinic repair center in Philadelphia, she went looking specifically for a female tech, and couldn’t find even one.
That sparked a desire to become a service technician herself. At 31, and making six figures as an engineer, Banks enrolled in night classes at a technical school – “the only girl with a bunch of 19-year-old boys.” It wasn’t long before she left her successful career to work in garages and gain experience.
Banks now trains women on basic car knowledge and hires only female techs at her repair center.
The timing for more women to enter the field couldn’t be better: The TechForce Foundation recently released a report that showed the demand for new vehicle techs from 2016 to 2026 to be three times higher than was previously projected for the 2014 to 2024 period.
Obstacles to seeing more women as service techs include that it’s sometimes seen as a “man’s job” and that most women are unaware of the job’s many perks, including the good pay, short schooling with programs that can leave graduates free of student debt, and reasonable hours.
Banks says that sexism can be an obstacle too.
“In some cases, women might face discrimination at hiring, or they may get hired and face discrimination in the workplace,” she told Modern Dealership last year. “It could be an unsafe work environment, or it could be that she isn’t mentored and trained as much as her male counterparts, so isn’t advancing in her career and gaining the same experience.”
The good news, according to Smith, is that FO is a great place for women to find equality at a dealership.
“I’ve worked both sides – front-of-the-house sales and FO,” she says. “I see management as being more open to bringing women in on the service side. The job is very task-oriented, and there’s just less room for issues.”
Paving the Way for Success
With support coming from players inside the industry – like Smith and Banks – the outlook is positive for female service techs. Opportunities are increasing as dealerships are recognizing the specific value of female techs and more people are spreading the word about great job opportunities.
“I think we need to work to get more women into [training], but also be sure we are supporting them once they are in the field.”Patrice Banks
Finding a mentor who believes in you, who understands the challenges you face, and who will help you succeed is essential, she adds. “Ladies, we are so capable. More than we know. [Our] emotional strength, softness, cleverness are needed. Believe and know that it is for you and you can do it.”
Smith often posts job opportunities that might be more appealing to female techs – like those being offered by female-owned dealerships – on LinkedIn and other social outlets.
One dealership that has been particularly interested in female techs is Team Auto Group, a Chevrolet-Buick-GMC-Cadillac dealership in Salisbury, N.C., where Dealership Partner Kristin Dillard is acting as another agent of change for women in the field. Dillard asks for all the female applicants Automax can provide.
And she’s not the only one. More good news from Smith: “If I had 1,000 female techs available right now, I could place them in 30 days.”
A Lucrative Career
Certification for low-grade techs requires just one year of schooling, with more advanced tech certification taking another year or so. Even low-grade techs can expect to make about $45,000 to $50,000 out of school. In addition, good techs are so in demand that many dealerships now offer to pay back student debt for their new techs. A perk, for sure, when the average student debt is $32,000.
Top-level techs who have earned master mechanic status and have five years of experience can earn $100,000 a year, according to reporting by The New York Times.
Some women might have been turned off by the physical/mechanical aspect of the work, but it has become vastly more technical and software-based in nature, reflected in the job’s changing title: mechanic to technician. Plus, the hours are reasonable, with most dealers paying on a flat-rate basis, where the tech is paid for eight hours of work even if she completes the work in four or five hours.