This week, we hosted our monthly WrenchWay Roundtable. This month’s topic was “Women in Wrenching: How Do We Attract More Women to the Industry?”

The full recording is available below and on WrenchWay’s YouTube channel, which we highly recommend watching. We’ve also included highlights of the event below.

About Our Moderator and Panelists

Christen Battaglia
Director of Strategic Partnerships, WrenchWay
First car: 1985 Grand Marquis

Growing up, Christen used to get off the bus after school and walk to her dad’s dealership where she spent a better part of her childhood. One of her early impressions of the industry was that while her brothers and male cousins were asked to go into the industry, she never was asked. Ironically, she is the only family member still working in the industry today.

Carolyn Coquillette
Founder & CEO, Shop-Ware, and Owner, Luscious Garage
First car: Dodge Neon

Carolyn started wrenching after she had a problem with her car and was frustrated that she didn’t know how to fix it after spending four years in college. After that, she went to a community college, and fell in love with the industry. She started working on hybrid cars in San Francisco, and eventually opened up her own shop. Carolyn is also the Founder and CEO of Shop-Ware which provides solutions to allow shops to evolve and embrace the 21st century.

Audra Fordin
Owner, Great Bear Auto Repair, and Founder, Women Auto Know
First car: 1976 Dodge Aspen

Audra started working in auto repair as a kid with her dad and grandfather. She started wrenching when she was old enough to hold power tools. As she got older, she got experience in all different positions in the shop. Audra is now the 4th generation and first female to take over ownership of her family’s shop. Audra also founded Women Auto Know in 2009, which educates men and women how to be better drivers, passengers, and consumers by taking the fear out of auto repair.

Cheryl Thompson
Founder, Center for Automotive Diversity, Inclusion, & Advancement (CADIA)
First car: 1977 Thunderbird

Cheryl was introduced to the industry because her dad was an engineer at Ford Motor company. In high school, her dad recommended she start working in food service for Ford. At the time, Ford was making an effort to recruit more women and minorities into skilled trades, and she got recruited into a tool and dye apprenticeship. Cheryl quickly fell in love with how it made her feel to fix and make things with her hands. She eventually got into engineering and spent 31 years working at Ford. Managing a team of 500 technicians, she only had one female on her team. She got passionate about how to make the industry more inclusive, and started CADIA in 2017 to create avenues of success for people of all diversity dimensions in automotive by providing professional development opportunities.

Brittany Parker
Master Subaru Technician, Maple Hill Auto Group
First car: 1993 Buick LeSabre

Brittany grew up on a farm working on tractors and spending time fixing bikes. After high school, she tried a few different avenues before deciding that it would be fun to fix cars. Brittany started at Lansing Community College, and was breaking down doors without even knowing it, as she was the only female in her class. She made it a personal goal to be a master technician, so she got ASE master certified. After working at a few independent shops, Brittany ended up at Maple Hill Auto group where she got Subaru training, and loves working today.

3 Highlights From the March WrenchWay Roundtable

1. The experiences of working in the industry for our all-female panel has been positive.

When asked about their experience working as a woman in a predominantly male industry, overall the panelists agreed it’s been very positive. Brittany Parker, Master Subaru Technician, Maple Hill Auto Group, explains that the biggest barrier she experienced was overcoming her own personal limitations.

 

Carolyn Coquillette, Founder & CEO, Shop-Ware, agreed that people in the industry have been incredibly supportive. She adds that technicians are in high demand, so if any experience is negative, there are endless opportunities elsewhere. She also brought up a great point that being a woman in the industry offers some advantages in that some women may feel more comfortable with a female in the shop.

 

Audra Fordin, Founder, Women Auto Know, agreed that because women are so under-represented in a shop, working with a female technician or service advisor can take the intimidation factor away for female customers.

2. We need to make the opportunities in the industry more known to people of all backgrounds at a younger age.

Cheryl Thompson, Founder of CADIA, explains that we as an industry need to focus on making the industry more accessible to young people and educating parents.

 

Audra explains that she, personally, attends career days to help educate students as young as elementary school age to start introducing a career in the industry. She also works with pre-driving students to help educate them about cars.

 

Carolyn adds in that we also need to make improvements to make the industry more attractive and desirable for people to work in.

 

One of the roundtable attendees who is an Automotive Instructor at a community college explains what they do to help generate more interest from young people:

“Several years ago, we made a department decision to get out and visit the middle and high schools in our district. We also host events where we bus students to the college for tours and activities. Also, we have an open-door policy to provide tours for potential students with their parents. Many times, parents are blown away because they have no idea what we and the industry have to offer as a career.”

3. There are practical things that shops can do to be more inclusive of women in the shop.

Brittany suggests a few great ideas for what shops can do to make a shop more inclusive of women including having a ladies locker room and offering paid maternity leave.

 

Carolyn adds that there needs to be a proactive effort to promote people of diverse backgrounds to committee positions the industry to people of diverse backgrounds in order to attract them.

 

Cheryl suggests that shops need to make themselves more visible to underrepresented communities through different mediums like social media and different workforce development groups:

Watch the Full WrenchWay Roundtable

There were so many great parts of this roundtable and it’s impossible to include all the highlights – be sure to watch the full recording of the event. Also, be sure to join us for our next WrenchWay Roundtable discussion April 21st at 7pm CT, Managing Military Veterans in the Shop.