LGBTQ Auto Shop Owners Challenge Status Quo in the Industry
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The car industry has been male-dominated for years. Those who feel excluded from the industry, especially women and queer people, might put off important repairs or feel taken advantage of by mechanics and dealers.
According to NBC News, several LGBTQ auto shop owners are also looking to make the world of cars more inclusive and accessible. What changes do they hope to lead in the car repair space and industry as a whole?
The auto industry still needs work in terms of diversity and inclusion | Twenty20
LGBTQ auto enthusiasts speak out about the industry
El Scherker took interest in auto repair after they fixed an old Chevy with their grandmother. Scherker was excited to make auto repair their future career, but quickly became disenchanted with the industry. They were subjected to transphobic comments at multiple shops, muddying their enjoyment of cars altogether.
Scherker sold most of their tools and worked at a coffee shop until a year later, when they were hired by a queer-owned repair shop. They moved to a full-time position within a few weeks, and the shop gave Scherker the confidence to stay in the industry. The auto shop, Repair Revolution, is owned by a queer mechanic named Eli Allison.
Allison focuses on creating a work culture that welcomes queer employees and any customer without judgment. Like Scherker, Allison was also initially discouraged by the toxic behavior of many people working in the auto industry. Allison was told "if you want to be successful, put your head down and do well," at the time when they were using female pronouns.
Gender inequality and sexism in the workplace
Women and gender nonconforming individuals in the auto industry often have to work harder to prove themselves as capable as male colleagues. Allison says that they have heard many stories from women and queer people who have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace.
NBC News reports that in a 2017 survey of 900 women, 65% said that they had experienced unwanted sexual advances. The survey also showed that 80% of respondents had witnessed sexist behavior at least once at conferences or off-sites.
Organizations like Women in Auto Care are actively working to put a stop to these harmful behaviors. The Center for Automotive Diversity, Inclusion, and Advancement (CADIA) hopes to help double the number of diverse industry leaders by 2030 through development training and workshops.
After their employment at Repair Revolution, Scherker moved to Oregon and opened up their own repair shop called Stargazer Garage. Scherker’s auto shop adopts Repair Revolution’s customer-first business model to ensure their company is inclusive, accessible, and transparent.
How can the auto industry culture be improved?
Women and people with different gender identities can often feel intimidated in a repair shop. To combat this, Allison said that "We try to, from start to finish, to build relationships with our customers."
Scherker emphasizes the importance of taking customers behind the scenes. By allowing them to peek under the hood, they're giving their customers more knowledge about auto repairs. This makes the customers more proactive about making manageable repairs on their own. It can also help them say no to an unnecessary service at a mechanic.
Exclusion and harassment in the workplace is an unacceptable practice that discourages talented women and queer people from pursuing their passions in the auto industry.
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