A Madison youth program is introducing girls to a career typically dominated by men.
Wilde East Towne Honda, in partnership with the Dane County School Consortium (DCSC), hosted the Girl’s Auto Clinic for the second year. The two month-long program, which ended Thursday, encouraged high school girls to defy gender stereotypes in the automotive industry.
Only nine percent of Americans working in automotive repair and maintenance are women, according to 2020 data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“We learned about spark plugs. We learned about air filters. We learned about changing a tire on the side side of the road,” student Ella Shaw said, adding she did not know these skills before the program.
Shaw, who is 17 years old, worked on her own car for the last day of class. She said she joined the program “to be super independent with everything I do, with my car especially.”
Ashley Fuller, an express technician, mentored the teens. She is the only woman to work in the garage at the Honda dealership.
“Being very confident and being stronger and being able to keep up the guys is very nice,” she said.
Consulting group Deloitte shared findings from a study it co-conducted, saying women face different barriers in joining the automotive industry. The group says reasons include negative perceptions about the workplace environment, a perceived lack of work-life balance and a lack of flexibility in work schedules.
“The world, in general, perhaps, has been dominated by men, especially physical tasks and physical labor,” Shaw said. “But we have a girl mechanic teaching us, and it’s super cool.”
She said she would consider returning to the automotive industry as a career. “You don’t just need to consider being a mechanic, specifically,” she said. “It’s about the whole industry. There’s a place for everyone, really.”
For all the girls graduating the garage, Fuller shared some parting advice: “It doesn’t matter if you’re male or female. You can do whatever you want, and don’t be intimidated by anybody.”