ENHANCING EQUALITY

We need more women in collision repair

BY ALLISON ROGERS

Have you ever searched through a library of stock images? The endless rows of far-too-smiley models engaged in some mindless activity, blank stares and too-white smiles reflected in blank laptop screens. And why are they always eating salads? Meanderings aside, stock photo libraries can be a dreary place. Perhaps that’s a tad dramatic, but they sure do reinforce stereotypes.

A recent article for this issue of Bodyworx Professional required our team to scan streams of stock photo libraries in search of a photo to depict an overarching theme of ‘women in trades.’ Instead of the photos you’d expect—female painters donning flashy paint suits, hard at work on a glossy job in the booth, or scrawling away an estimate—you are met with rows upon rows of girls popping hips in short-shorts, wielding spray guns upside-down with goofy grins as if they’re asking some invisible man off camera, “Am I doing it right?” Now, I can’t speak for you or your team, but I highly doubt you and ‘the gals’ spend the day posing in front of customer vehicles. The point I’m making is that, if it takes 212 pages of scrolling before you find a single photo of a man posing seductively in front of a car, why is it so easy to find the same images of women?

While the chances you find yourself scrolling through a stock photo library while pursuing an education in collision repair are slim, these libraries are not the only place where stereotypes are reinforced. Far too many female technicians, painters, even facility owners face gender stereotypes in the workplace daily. Just months ago, a collision centre owner confided in Bodyworx Professional, telling our reporters that there is at least one instance per day where she answers the office phone and the gruff voice on the other end proclaims, “I want to talk to a man.”

There are many industry alliances addressing the gender gap in the automotive aftermarket. Take the Women’s Industry Network, for example, which hosts frequent virtual and in-person meetings designed to empower women working in collision repair and associated aftermarket trades. AkzoNobel, also a sponsor of the Women’s Industry Network, has taken the liberty to train more than 200 female painters and plans to train another 1,000 by the time 2022 closes out. Will one of those skilled painters be you?

There is power in numbers, but you don’t necessarily have to be part of a female-driven alliance to succeed as a woman in this industry; the core basics of what you really need are a bit of gumption, dedication to your craft and stellar confidence in your work. The grapevine may holler that you need a ‘thick skin’ to succeed in this trade, but with conviction in your work and a well-respected education behind you, you’ll be more than fine.

It’s time for a change. For too long this has been known as maledriven industry. Tell your friends the tides are changing; a career in collision repair is so in for 2022.

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