"More Women, Girls Feel at Home Under the Hood"
Detroit News, Detroit, MI
July 17th, 2000 -- BY RASHEDA WILLIAMS/THE DETROIT NEWS
Jr./ The Detroit News
Females of all ages find skills, jobs in auto mechanics.
It's time to take your car in for a tuneup, but you're
feeling a little apprehensive. So what do you do? You
take along your husband, father or brother for extra security
to that male bastion, the local service station.
"Whenever, if at all possible, I take my dad with me,"
said Wendi Sawchuk, 23, of Macomb Township. "If I can't,
which is most of the time, I just trust the mechanic."
But things are changing in the world of car care, where
more and more women are swapping blind trust for knowledge
-- and where some women are even turning that knowledge
into jobs as technicians.
Monique Tooks says women can succeed as car technicians.
* In 1989, there were 880,000 automobile service and repair
technicians. 6,000 of them were women.
* In 1999, there were 837,000 automobile service and repair
technicians. 12,000 were women.
- Source: U.S. Department of Labor
The National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence
(ASE) said that women account for more than half of all
customers who take their vehicles to a repair shop. To
help them take control of their auto service and repair
visits, ASE has put together a brochure with helpful tips.
"We wanted to help educate women on maintenance," said
Nancy White, ASE's director of consumer relations. "Once
women are armed with the right information, they can make
the right decisions."
Sandra Kinsler created Womanmotorist.com as a resource
for women who want to learn everything about the industry.
The online magazine features Q&A sessions with certified
mechanics, car reviews and an automotive glossary. There's
also a special section dedicated to vehicle maintenance.
"(Women) hate the process because they think they're going
to get ripped off," Kinsler said. "Surprisingly, men get
ripped off as much as women, but that's not unusual in
Bob Cotter, owner of the Allen Park Auto Care Center,
said he operates his business under the best policy: honesty.
"We'll take time to explain what needs to be done," he
said. "Everybody that comes in gets exactly what they
came in for. I will not stand for any of my employees
doing anything that's not needed."
Melanie Uzarek, 24, has no problem taking her vehicle
to the Allen Park-area service station, where she is greeted
by a female receptionist and licensed technician.
"They are really friendly and helpful. Even the men that
work there are helpful," Uzarek said. "They don't make
you feel intimidated or anything like that."
With more than an estimated 60,000 automotive-related
jobs available nationwide, opportunities for women are
"There is no better career for a woman to get into today,"
said Jean Hart, manager of technical training for GM Service
Operations. "It's a great opportunity to earn good money
and save money by knowing how to work on your own car."
It takes more than muscle to repair one of today's high-powered
vehicles. Strong diagnostic and analytical skills are
Ron Morast of Detroit said women are sometimes more assertive
than men when it comes to repairing a vehicle. "A lady
rebuilt my carburetor," said Morast, a shipping and receiving
vehicle driver. "I don't see anything wrong with a lady
working on a car. A woman can do just about anything a
man can do, sometimes even better."
Self-confidence and drive
Monique Tooks, a 24-year-old certified technician at Taylor
Chevrolet, encourages young women to consider careers
in the industry.
"You have to have self-confidence and you have to sacrifice,"
said Tooks, who recently graduated from the General Motors
Automotive Service Education Program, which trains students
for careers with the company while they earn an associate's
"You have to be aggressive and ambitious."
Tooks is the only female technician at the dealership.
She said customers are amazed to see her under the hood.
"I've had people peep in the door and ask, 'Is that a
woman working on a car?'" she said. "They think it's great.
I haven't had any encounters where I've been criticized."
Working on barriers
Although an ASE report shows that the number of female
auto technicians has increased over the past 12 years,
some women find it hard to break down gender barriers
in the workplace.
"You are going to be up against extra challenges," said
Susan Christophersen, manager of service training for
AC Delco. "Some people encouraged me a lot, other people
asked 'Why are you doing that?' It's a nontraditional
field (for women)."
Girl Scouts across the country are breaking tradition
by sporting the Car Care Badge. Through the organization's
Car Sense Interest Project, scouts learn the fundamentals
of vehicle maintenance.
Girls in grades three through six team up with professionals
who show them how to check fluids and oils, change tires
and perform safety inspections.
"They really enjoy it and a lot of them are interested
in how engines work," said Kristin Knudson Harris, spokeswoman
for the Michigan Metro Girl Scouts Council. "Every 16
year old wants a new car and here they learn how to take
care of it."
For information about the General Motors Automotive Service
Educational Program, call (800) 828-6860 or visit the
Web site at http://www.gmstc.com/
Tips for female car owners
The National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence
offers these tips to women:
© Reprinted with permission from Detroit News, Detroit,
- Ask friends and associates for recommendations.
- Read your owner's manual and follow the recommended
- Be prepared to describe the symptoms and supply
a written list of recent problems.
- Ask as many questions as you need.
- Before you leave, be sure you understand all shop
policies regarding labor rates, guarantees and methods