I'm a college student currently pursuing my art degree, but I'm also thinking about going to UTI to get trained in the collision repair field because I love cars. Combining my love of art and cars would be awesome! My question, though, is: Is there a place for women in the auto body trade? The reason I ask is because I was told by a female working in the front office of a muffler shop (who I decided to ask a few questions while my car was getting worked on there) that shops usually don't hire women in the back because it distracts the male workers due to their thinking the girl needs help or doesn't know what she's doing. I just toured UTI again a few days ago and I noticed there were very few females there, which is kind of sad because that means I'll basically be hanging out with guys in this field. My mom is trying to convince me to pursue my art degree or go into graphic arts instead of working on cars because she believes auto body work is dangerous and toxic. I think that's probably the worry of every parent who has a child (particularly female) who wants to go into automotive collision repair. What advice can you give me?
Question answered by Denise Caspersen, chair of the Women's Industry Network (WIN) and industry relations/project management/innovative strategic planning professional with National Autobody Parts Warehouse.
Women in the collision repair industry are having a positive impact on the industry! During the most recent WIN Educational Conference, women from all segments of the collision repair industry gathered to hear messages from leaders inside and outside our industry focused on achieving our goals. A key takeaway from Jane Hylen, senior vice president, North Central Region, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, National Car Rental, Alamo Rent A Car, centered on taking charge of your path, setting your goals and pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone in the largest sense, following your dreams.
Taking a path that's less traveled doesn’t mean it's wrong, but you must understand that the path will be filled with "unprescribed” opportunities and experiences. Facing challenges and looking at them as opportunities requires courage, and no one is born with courage. Courage comes from a rich background of varied experiences and a desire to push yourself beyond your fears. Being required to prove your talents and show you know what you're doing isn’t about gender; it’s about growing as a professional through life’s challenges. No matter where your life choices take you, as a leader, you will always be required to prove your abilities.
There are many women in the collision repair industry. These women can be found in all facets of our world painters, technicians, appraisers, financial directors, business owners, heads of corporations, engineers and so much more. When someone says they “don’t hire women in the back,” remember that's their limitation, not yours. Many businesses in our industry are recognizing talent beyond gender and are benefiting from this.
When your mom speaks of the dangerous toxins in the collision repair industry, see this as your opportunity to educate her. Collision shops of today, along with the manufacturing companies involved in our industry, are shining examples of being stewards of health and safety by pursuing environmentally-mindful processes and products. The days of lacquer and toxins are long gone.
Set your goals, build a plan, find a mentor and follow your dreams. Some resources for you to consider include WIN, the Collision Repair Education Foundation and SkillsUSA. Good luck!