AKRON-While women are becoming increasingly visible in sales and other tire dealership operations, the service shop has yet to experience any sizable influx of female workers. But this, too, may be changing, albeit slowly. Patricia ``Trish'' Serratore, spokeswoman for the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE), said there has been a ``modest increase'' in the number of women applying for ASE certification in various test categories.
So far, approximately 75 women have qualified as ``master technicians'' by becoming certified in all eight areas of the institute's automobile test category. Ms. Serratore speculated that one reason comparatively few women are preparing for auto service jobs is the perception that virtually all such work requires considerable physical strength.
Moreover, she pointed out that despite the continuing automotive trend of substituting electronics for what once were mechanical systems, service technicians still have to get their hands dirty. ``It's not easy to have long, beautiful fingernails,'' she added.
Lack of sufficient upper-body strength can prove an obstacle for women preparing to work as auto service technicians, according to Pat Garity, an automotive service instructor at Cuyamaca Community College in El Cajon, Calif.
Mr. Garity, who conducts a two-year training program for entry-level technicians sponsored by Ford Motor Co., recalls one female student in particular who dropped out after being unable to remove the wheels from a Ford Escort.
He counsels all women seeking to enter the training program that they must learn to handle the physical requirements inherent in such work.
``And to some I say: `You need to beef up a little. Go next door to the physical education department and tell the coach you need more upper-body strength,' '' Mr. Garity told TIRE BUSINESS.
There have always been a few women participating in the program, he said, and some have done very well. ``Essentially, I'm training rookies. And a lot of them will be the first woman technician in whatever dealership they go to work in,'' he said.
Mr. Garity said it's interesting to watch the group dynamics as male members of the class adjust to the presence of females in the shop. At first, he said, male students are quick to ``help out'' their less-experienced female counterparts.
But after the first week or two, when the newness of the situation wears off, female students begin to blend in the same as ``one of the guys,'' Mr. Garity said. This pattern often is repeated when the female students first enter the field professionally, he added.
Despite having the same training as their male counterparts, Mr. Garity doubts that many women students will remain service technicians indefinitely. Some will choose to leave the field entirely for one reason or another. Others will take less physically demanding jobs in the shop such as service writers.
So far, the success rate of his female students hasn't been too good, Mr. Garity observed. ``I've had four women in my program, three of whom completed it. One went to work for the state of California in the Bureau of Automotive Repair, mainly because they wanted a woman under the affirmative action program. Another one got pregnant. And one is currently still out there and doing well.''
The fact that these women technicians were pioneers when they began working in auto dealerships placed them under a microscope, Mr. Garity pointed out. ``Everything they did was watched and people would say: `I'm going to keep an eye on this woman and see if she proves my theory that females shouldn't be doing this kind of work.'
``But then,'' he added, ``they said that about women when they started to drive cars, too.''