“I think it’s important to raise the bar for female technicians and that this industry respect us,” Weaver said.
Even if women buy 62% of new cars sold in the United States and represent 50% of the repair market, according to an NPR report, it is estimated that only 17% of jobs in the automotive industry are held by women in design, manufacturing, retail and service maintenance positions.
Hanna Weaver (right) helps a student remove a serpentine belt. Contributed
Women currently make up around 4% of automotive technicians and mechanics, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics. And the shortage of female automotive technicians is not unique to the United States. Women are significantly under-represented in the automotive industry globally.
Despite this, since starting Sinclair, Weaver has observed more female college students in the program, which is important to her.
“As a student and just starting out in the automotive business, I didn’t have a lot of women to look up to,” Weaver said.
Weaver eventually began to feel comfortable in an industry where few professional colleagues looked like her, but as she grew more confident, working in the male-dominated industry got better and better. easier.
Justin Morgan, the chairman of Sinclair’s automotive technology department, has also noticed the increase in female enrollments – about 7% over the past six years. About 15% of the students in the program are now women.
In response to the increase, Morgan held a focus group in 2018 with program alumni “to develop and improve the department,” Morgan said. The goal of the focus group was to create a safe space for open discussion to help professors deal with any biases or concerns that might arise, to help students succeed in the department, and to prepare them. what they will face in the industry.
Weaver emphasizes that presence is an important factor in connecting with underrepresented groups. She and other colleagues are actively involved in the WiSTEM Institute, Girl Scouts Master Mechanic, Ascending bollard, and Autotour Sinclair awareness programs.
For prospective students, it’s crucial to “know we’re here” and be able to imagine yourself in these careers, Weaver said.
The latest Upward Bound program was delivered online due to COVID, but students were just as involved and asked some great questions, she said.
Building confidence is also important. Allaying potential students’ fears of working with complex technology is very encouraging for them, according to Weaver.
Greater opportunities exist for women and may be the result of the industry becoming more customer-focused, particularly around user experience, according to Carla Bailo, CEO of the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Michigan. In order to get in touch with women, who are the majority of car buyers and driver’s license holders– industry leaders see the need to diversify the workforce.
Diversification in the field of automotive technology education is also needed. Morgan said he knew few female instructors in the field. It is considering a reassessment of hiring practices to ensure that professional qualifications match the needs of the industry. For example, he said that there are highly trained technicians who could be great instructors, but they do not have the required certifications.
Hanna Weaver (right) teaches at Sinclair College. Weaver has observed more female students participating in the program, which is important to her. Contributed
The program typically gets one to two qualified applicants per instructor job offer, which Morgan says often makes it difficult to diversify staff. Currently he is considering the possibility of on-the-job certification of newly hired instructors.
Weaver hopes that women’s interest in the automotive world will increase and that the Sinclair program will continue.
“I really like seeing that because it makes me feel more comfortable in the industry,” she said, “and I hope I can do that for them too.”
Laurel Painter is a member of The journalism lab, a local citizen journalism group. She is also employed at Sinclair College but does not work in the Automotive Technology program or for any entity involved in the program.