More women hold driver’s licenses than men. More women own cars than men, too. And women keep up to date with regular maintenance on their cars more regularly than men do. So why is it that the auto tech world is still dominated by men? Whether women are interested in working in the field or simply trying to get their vehicle serviced, there is a “boys’ club” mentality in the industry that makes some feel uneasy around an auto shop.
In Philadelphia, Patrice Banks lived most of her life as what she has dubbed an “auto airhead.” She didn’t know her way around a car and didn’t know how to interact with mechanics to get her questions answered. But after years spent like this, Patrice realized she needed to educate herself about the large investment she had been driving around so she could truly understand what it needed and not have to rely on mechanics—people she felt were taking advantage of her “auto airheadedness.”
Patrice took those feelings and her experience with mechanics and set her mind to learning everything she could about cars – she became a fully trained, qualified auto technician and before long had launched Girls Auto Clinic – an online resource devoted solely to helping women educate themselves about the auto repair and maintenance industry. To support the cause of women in automotive, Patrice offers an auto technology book written for the female perspective and presents seminars and workshops around Philadelphia.
Patrice is not alone in feeling like she was in the dark when it came to anything auto related, but she has dedicated herself to changing that. With a load of passion and a healthy dose of persistence, she is working hard to educate women on all things auto. As they become more comfortable with the ins and outs of the cars they drive every day, they will be able to make educated decisions on repairs or even become auto technicians— just like Patrice.
Although Patrice has a way of making you feel you’re capable of anything, she doesn’t sugar-coat reality. She admits that being a female auto technician is rough. “It’s going to be hard and you’ll face discrimination from both men and women at some point,” she says. As a result, you need to be persistent and continue to look for a mentor who can support you and push you to grow and learn. Just like any other job, you make your way up the ladder. With a solid education, though, you will be prepared for any work that comes your way; you just have to continue pushing forward. It’s worth it in the long run, because female customers connect better with female mechanics, and building that trust between technician and customer will lead to better service and empowered car owners. To achieve this, there simply needs to be more women who work on cars.
Patrice’s infectious personality makes you believe in yourself, and that confidence comes in handy when you’re starting a new adventure. “Women have been told they can’t work on cars for so long that they started to believe it,” she says. “When you have the confidence, you can achieve it. There is nothing a man can learn that a woman cannot.”
Through Girls Auto Clinic, she takes imposing concepts and makes them understandable and engaging. As she moves forward with her endeavor, she is working toward opening a full-service auto clinic complete with a nail salon. She is not afraid of being honest about who she is and that may be why Girls Auto Clinic is gaining so much attention. “There are all types of women in this world,” she stated. “I’m a woman, I wear red heels and I like getting my hands dirty. You can be all things. It’s not one way or the other.”
In September, Patrice will compete as a finalist in Miller Lite’s Tap the Future, a competition that invites entrepreneurs to pitch their ideas for a chance to earn more than $200,000 in funding. As she continues on her own path of trying to disrupt the auto industry and make it more accessible to women in the garage and in the waiting room, she hopes other women will do the same to help change the culture that has been part of the auto world for so long.