Automechanika Birmingham has launched a brand-new documentary highlighting females in the automotive aftermarket, featuring discussions about what it’s like to be a woman in the industry, to coincide with International Women’s Day 2023.
The documentary includes Erin Baker, editorial director at Auto Trader, Rosie Smith, a vehicle paint technician at Apollo Motor Group and Regional Account Manager at LKQ Euro Car Parts, Karena Shahid, and focuses on breaking down stereotypes that might be stopping women from joining the industry. Additionally, the women discuss the support they’ve received from their peers and colleagues along the way.
The film also features female mechanic and independent garage owner, Lou Baker and freelance refinisher and owner of Paint by Rach, Rachel Murray, during their challenge of a lifetime in 2022 when they drove 1,575 miles across Europe in a Rover 216 Cabriolet, all in the name of automotive mental health charity, Ben.
Attracting the next generation
Alex Jones, Marketing Director at Messe Frankfurt, organisers of Automechanika Birmingham comments: “Many women are thriving in the automotive sector, taking on more senior roles at every stage of the supply chain, and Automechanika Birmingham is encouraging the aftermarket to continue to embrace gender equity this International Women’s Day.
“We’ve launched the Women in Automotive documentary, as it became clear that we wanted to invite more women to share their advice and experience to help attract the next generation of female talent to help further diversify the industry.”
A supportive industry
Auto Trader’s Editorial Director, Erin Baker, describes her job in the industry as ‘fantastic’, but mentions that starting out in the industry she made the ‘mistake’ of thinking that she had to be ‘blokey’ to be in her job role and prove her worth, as she was aware there weren’t many women.
Erin adds: “I doubled down on lots of jargon and techy language around how cars performed and around their engineering qualities and I shouldn’t have done that.”
Self-taught female mechanic and owner of Womanic, an independent garage based in Tyseley, Birmingham, Louise Baker says being a woman in the industry is ‘awesome’. She adds: “I’m having a blast. And I’ve received so much support and encouragement from men and women. I think it helps that I have been in the trade for so many years – I have proven myself and my contribution to the trade and will continue to do so for years to come.”
Like Louise, Erin explains that nowadays she also receives a lot of support from her peers in the industry, as they can see the benefit of having a female in the sector “to bridge the gap between female automotive consumers (the buyers of cars) and the brands who are trying to sell their products to them.”
Iona Airzee, a mechanical, electrical and trim technician says she’s not faced any challenges in the industry but feels “the stigma of it being a male-dominated industry needs to be squashed.”
LKQ’s Regional Account Manager, Karena Shahid, explains how she used to “face customers who would refuse to deal with me just for the simple fact that I was a woman.” She continues: “As a male dominated industry, people are not used to women coming in and talking about things they don’t think we should know about.” But Shahid reveals how she’s cultivated confidence to turn perceptions around that a female can do the job as well as a male.
Apollo Motor Group’s vehicle paint technician, Rosie Smith, adds: “Prejudgements were made when I first started, but I’ve come in and proved myself with the help and support from my mentor and colleagues.”
Recruiting other women
When it comes to recruiting other females to the automotive industry, Erin encourages businesses to “look outside the industry and stop trying to recruit from inside the sector. It’s not vital everyone needs to know about cars, love cars or drives a car!” She thinks the sector would benefit more from doing so to bring another viewpoint.
Rosie adds that companies shouldn’t “focus on gender” and instead they should “focus on finding people who have the skills and the passion for the industry. Don’t bring women in for the sake of it.”
Iona comments that more still could be done to raise awareness and highlight the women already working in the sector to show others looking at the sector or who are just about to join, that women are already working here, “to make them feel more comfortable about joining.”
Louise agrees more should and could be done to encourage other women – and the younger generation – to enter the industry, whether that’s as a technician or other areas of the supply chain.
Louise comments: “It is important to celebrate women in the industry to show others that the automotive industry IS an option along with any other career. It shouldn’t be about ‘girls do this, and boys do that’; we can all be anything we want and can achieve great things if we work together and show each other the options that we have. Highlighting this can only encourage and support others. We need to open people’s minds to the endless opportunities available!”
She adds: “We can do this by getting into schools and showing young people that this trade IS an option for anyone, regardless of gender. Girls can be mechanics, builders, electricians and engineers, just as much as boys can be nurses, ballet dancers, hairdressers and beauticians!”
Rachel Murray, 24-year-old freelance refinisher and business owner of Paint by Rach in Belfast, has been in the industry for seven years and says: “I can count on one hand how many times I’ve worked with other women, but I wouldn’t change it.”
She adds; “I definitely do see a change with more girls becoming interested in the industry, which is great to see. I think we will start to see this interest filter through to the workshop floor over the next few years.”
Rachel discusses how a balance of genders can help in business: “Women bring a different way of thinking to the industry and sometimes it requires more of a balance of genders to move forward, as men and women think about things and approach situations completely differently.”
The resounding message from the documentary for anyone looking to the join the automotive industry is to just do it!
“There’s nothing to be afraid of, with hard work and support from the people around you anything is possible and achievable, and you shouldn’t be discouraged because of your gender,” comments Iona.
Erin adds that the key is to make sure you have the skill set required for the job role; the automotive knowledge can come second.
Confidence is essential according to Louise: “I used to second guess myself all the time. But with experience, comes confidence and that takes time.”
International Women’s Day is marked annually on 8th March and is a day to celebrate women’s achievements, raise awareness about women’s equality and lobby for accelerated gender parity.
The theme for International Women’s Day this year is embrace equity, with the global campaign encouraging individuals to focus on gender equity and get the world talking about why equal opportunities are no longer enough.
You can watch Automechanika Birmingham’s ‘Women in Automotive’ documentary here.
Alex Jones adds: “Automechanika Birmingham encourages everyone to share the documentary amongst their networks to help attract the next generation of female talent to the industry.
“Everyone is also welcome to attend the Women in Automotive networking drinks at Automechanika Birmingham on the 7 June at the NEC.”
To register for a complimentary ticket to Automechanika Birmingham 2023, visit here.