In honour of International Women’s Day, we decided to take a look at young women entering the auto industry, so we reached out to one of the largest automotive education institutions in BC.
Jacqueline Craig is the coordinator for the Automotive Diploma Program at the British Columbia Institute of Technology, and she works to bring together industry partners and co-op students who need experience in the field. The program has been very successful facilitating dealerships and other automotive businesses to find new technicians, but it’s been challenging to attract women to the program, said Craig in an interview with Canadian auto dealer. Despite that, the program is very popular. “We haven’t had any issues with getting applicants to the program,” said Craig.
Despite this popularity, there’s a real lack of representation for women, reflecting the state of the industry as a whole. “I’ve been with the automotive program for almost a year now,” said Craig. “So from my experience with the students, the about a hundred students I’ve worked with in the last year, I’ve only had one female.”
Craig said that the lack of women in the program has actually been a deterrent on its own. “I’ve had emails from potential female students and this is their main barrier. One particular student at least was curious about the program, and asked what the ratio would be from male to female. And I was honest with her and said, ‘you know, we haven’t seen a female yet. I, You’re most likely gonna be in a classroom with mostly men. And the industry is mainly dominated by men’. She never enrolled in the program and I never heard from her again. So it’s definitely a barrier.”
So what are some ways to let young women know about the variety of good-paying jobs in the automotive industry? There’s a possibility that girls and young women think about grease-covered mechanics when they think about jobs as technicians (which will no longer even be a stereotype when electric engines become the norm), and they don’t know all the varieties of jobs in the industry, from the parts department, to marketing, to management, to working with OEMs.
Craig does currently have one woman enrolled in the program, which is encouraging. “I’m glad to see the one female student I do have right now in the program, she really wants to advocate for other females to join.” Craig thinks information about industry opportunities for girls needs to be available in high school, or even earlier. “So if we can show girls in high school, or even younger, that there are women in this industry and there are great career opportunities available, I think that’s where we really need to see it.”
Craig thinks that there are good role models in the Canadian auto world for women, and that visibility is great, but not the total answer. “The automotive industry is doing a good job at supporting women that are already in the industry, and I see a lot of women at automotive events and things like that, which is great. But I think we need to start a little bit earlier than that, to really support young women and girls even wanting to get into the industry from the beginning.”