Empowering women in auto care: Creating inclusion, opportunities, and progress 

May 8, 2024

Stacey Miller, Auto Care Association

There is the common perception that the auto care sector is intimidating for women—and in previous years, that may have been true. However, as the industry progresses and diversifies, more and more women have joined the industry, and the industry has become less intimidating and full of opportunities. 

Vice President of Communications at Auto Care Association, Stacey Miller, AAP, dove into how the industry can attract and retain female talent in the industry at the 2024 AIA Canada National Conference. 

“The industry has been so welcoming, and people have been so willing to take you under their wing and introduce you to people. It has always been collaborative and never competitive,” said Miller. “I was intimidated entering this industry—it is a very male-dominated industry with lots of tenure and lots of legacy. From day one, though, I felt at ease.” 

That being said, there is work to be done. Only 23.6 per cent of the automotive repair maintenance and repair industry are women, and only 3 per cent of businesses in all transportation sectors are women. Despite women technicians showing up to events like AAPEX and SEMA, that number has not moved very much in recent years. 

As we go through the supply chain, there has been an increase of women—women make up 15 per cent of the parts and accessories workforce, and 12 per cent in maintenance. So, the question is, how can we increase that number? 

“Many are unaware of the opportunities available in the automotive industry,” said Miller. “I have friends who are passionate about cars—they go to coffee and cars on Sundays. So why not turn that passion into practice? There are so many career paths available in this industry.” 

Creating an inclusive, welcoming environment 

While it is key to raise awareness about what careers can look like in the auto care industry, it is equally—if not more—essential to create an inclusive, welcoming, and positive environment for women. Sixty-three per cent of women automotive repair technicians have left a job that have limited their growth, 84 per cent of women technicians have experienced bias in the workplace, and 100 per cent of women technicians want to be respected for their skills, not their gender. 

When looking at those numbers, it is apparent that women want two simple things: to be respected and to have opportunities for career development. 

However, looking at this from a granular perspective is still important. 

“There are small ways we can impact change to increase these numbers,” said Miller. “When looking at women technicians and what they cite when they come to our industry, it appears that they give it a chance but bounce out when their growth is limited. They were not learning anything outside their specific role; they were not advancing; there was no path forward.” 

Women do not want to experience bias or isolation; they value having women and minorities in executive roles the most. To attract and retain talent, it is key that diversity is represented at all levels in the company. People entering and choosing careers are significantly influenced by seeing people they can relate to in the careers they pursue. 

When creating an environment that values diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), it is important to note that DEI is not a target but a culture. However, it becomes tricky—you should not hire a woman solely because she is a woman; you should not hire an ethnicity just because you have a target. You hire them because they are qualified and because they are going to contribute to your company. You hire them because you want to work with them and see them grow. 

The value of good management and human resources 

When creating a positive and inclusive environment, it is crucial to understand that management and human resources (HR) play a critical role in retaining women in the workplace. 

The top five soft skills women want in a manager include good communication skills, accountability, respect, approachability, and encouragement for growth. When it comes to hard skills, the top three include being an effective decision-maker, being able to manage complexity, and being effective at managing ambiguity. 

“When we ask a question and are not sure what the answer is, we do not want to be left in a lurch; we do not want to be left contemplating whether we made the right decision. So, authoritative, effective decision makers—we look up to them for inspiration,” said Miller. 

“We work in complex organizations, so if my manager is unable to explain what is going on with this project or program, I may lose confidence in that manager—and I need to have confidence in them to have that drive to grow in my career.” 

For HR policies and practices, women value harassment policies and having a designated HR representative. 

“HR is a big one. Make sure you have someone that women can talk to, especially if few women are in the organization. Women in HR understand some unique challenges we can experience, like bias or harassment.” said Miller. “Maybe we think something is happening, but we do not know how to interpret that in the workplace. Having a strong HR team is something that women rate very highly.” 

All in all, women want to feel safe, secure, and respected in their workplace. 

The importance of tailored benefits 

Benefits are incredibly telling for companies looking to attract and retain women in the industry. Tailoring benefits to women shows that DEI is part of their culture rather than just something that they say or hope to achieve on a day-to-day basis. 

“To help you better communicate with your female employees, to better attract and retain them, there needs to be balance,” said Miller. “We are not seeing that balance.” 

Women today do not like the traditional workplace—flexibility is key. Think of flexibility in a non-traditional way. How can we be better about the schedules during the day? Maybe someone wants to work a four-day work week, or perhaps someone wants to be flexible with their work hours, say work from seven in the morning to three in the afternoon or from eleven to seven. It is about what works for them, and it is up to the employer to be accommodating. 

“These benefits do not need to be implemented from day one—as long as the company is open to the conversation and listening to what women value, that is a step in the right direction,” said Miller. 

Women also tend to value healthcare—and not just good healthcare benefits or insurance, but other benefits that are within the realm of healthcare and overall well-being. 

“Companies can offer simple things such as putting good food in the fridge instead of candies, or offer wellness rooms or brainstorming rooms.” 

Other key benefits women value in the workplace include retirement support, paid time off, physical health benefits, and family planning. 

For paid time off, women want to make sure they have enough paid time off. Maybe their kids got sick and need to take the day off, or they got an extra day off school, or depending on the amount of maternity leave they have, they may want to begin their maternity leave early. 

“These ideas are not new or radical, but I am not sure we see enough companies implementing them. However, they are pretty big selling points for women.” 

Women in auto: A positive future 

The auto care industry has come a long way regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion, but it still has some hurdles to overcome in order to attract and retain more women in the industry. 

Having an increasingly diverse workforce—having other women around and other people who look like you—is an inherently easier way to help your employees feel more comfortable and become more engaged and involved in their workplace. 

Do not just showcase the career opportunities available but also the culture in your company and the effort to create an inclusive, positive, and adaptable work environment. 

This blog has been created based on Stacey Miller’s presentation, Creating an inclusive industry for women in the auto care sector, at the 2024 edition of the AIA Canada National Conference.  


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