We are living in a time where clichés are being dethroned. Women serve in the army, run successful international corporations, fly to space and lead governments. Whether we – men – like it or not, women will take up more active role in every aspect of the modern society. Automotive industry is still dominated by men, despite the fact that the number of women behind the driving wheel match the men, at least in the developed world. So, why don’t we have an equivalent percentage of women (I don’t know what percentage this should be) in a bodyshop?
Women in the repair shop. Why we see women only at the reception desks?
I will concentrate on the bodyshop business, since it is closer to my usual readers. Apparently, there are a few reasons why women spraying cars are rather an exception.
- Prejudice. I strongly believe the main reason, is the negative predisposition of people – men – in the collision repair industry against women in a bodyshop. Just like with female taxi drivers, men do not like their cars to be fixed, driven or painted by women.
- Collision repair job is too hard for women. It shouldn’t be. If a bodyshop is properly equipped than none of the operations, especially in a paint shop, should be physically challenging for women.
- This work is too hazardous for women. Again, collision repair work must be safe for any person involved in the repair process, regardless of gender or age. Of course, I have my concerns if women should be working with chemicals, while pregnant, but this shouldn’t be an obstacle for women’s occupation in a bodyshop in general.
- Social disapproval. Just like with the first point, modern society puts labels on women. They can be nurses, waitresses, teachers, cooks or doctors. Most of the parents will discourage their daughter to choose a career of a car mechanic or refinisher.
- The job is not prestigious. It is hard to deny that the collision repair industry struggles to attract young people. This is the problem, which affects young men and women in the same way. Unless we find proper incentives, our industry will continue to grow older.
Why do we need more women in the industry?
The idea to write this post came to me after reading the article “Young Painter Creates “Girls Behind the Gun” in AutobodyNews.com about Konstandina Manjavinos – a young lady who is a very successful sprayer. Konstandina is also the founder of the movement “Girls behind the gun”. I follow her posts and cannot hide my admiration for her enthusiasm and skills. “Girls behind the gun” has thousands of followers! By the way, Konstandina has Greek roots. I tried to recall any female car sprayer in Greece. Never met one, even though a colleague told me that he knew … three!
- Women are more efficient and accurate in the routine tasks.We all know that vehicle’s preparation before it enters a spray booth, requires a certain routine of masking, sanding, de-masking, priming and cleaning chores. The importance of these jobs are difficult to underestimate. If you ever have visited an OEM paint shop, you would know that the majority of employees there are women. I guess that the biggest car manufacturers realized a long time ago that women are better than men in many tasks in the paint shop.
- Women are better in distinguishing colors.According to the research in the CUNY’s Brooklyn College, “women are much better in noticing subtle differences among shades of a color”. We all know how important this capability in colormetrics and color-matching is. Automotive refinishing business will benefit from more women in a spray booth or behind a color matching bench.
- Women handle better multiple tasks. According to the research of University of Glasgow, women outperform men when asked to do multiple tasks simultaneously. I think that in a bodyshop, employees have to run many things at the same time. For fact.
- Women keep their working place clean and tidy.Every year dozens of productive hours are lost because employees are searching for tools, equipment and consumables around the shop.
- Women are better in communication. It is not a secret that timely delivery of a vehicle doesn’t depend only on bodyshop capacity. Estimators, insurance companies, parts and consumables’ suppliers all influence delivery times. I am sure that more women in all positions in a collision repair shop will benefit the business overall.
Finally, I would like to mention another influential woman in the collision repair business –Kristen Felder – founder at Engage Target Media and Collision Hub. I follow Kristen’s work for a while now, and she is probably one of the most knowledgeable people in the automotive refinishing industry I know. I am sure there are many other women who make our trade move forward.