Kathleen Long shares the experiences of 15 women in auto repair to highlight what they have learned as they developed their careers.

Women Who Win Make a PACCT to Succeed in Auto Repair

For the past few decades, common wisdom has demanded that women ‘play like the boys’ in order to succeed. However, Kathleen Long, Vice-President and General Manager of Growth at RepairPal, says women succeed best when they are confident in their own contributions and strong in presenting their real selves as they forge their own path forward.

She gave a presentation entitled Women Who Win: How to Thrive in a Male-Dominated Industry at the AAPEX Expo last week. As she spoke, she drew on the experiences of 14 other women in auto repair to highlight what they have learned as they developed their careers.

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Working in the male-designed industry of auto repair

“Oppression of women is not the point of patriarchy, but a social system that is male-identified, male-controlled, and male-centered will inevitably value masculinity and masculine traits,” Kathleen says. “We’ve always said that we work in a ‘male-dominated’ industry but it’s actually a ‘male-DESIGNED’ industry.”

She notes that women’s inequality cannot be adequately addressed simply by working to get women “a bigger piece of the pie.” If that happens, some women will succeed but most will not.

Instead, she invited people to make a PACCT based on passion, authenticity, confidence, community, and traction.

Passion means not being afraid to show emotion and going with your gut. Emotional vulnerability supports inclusion at a time when diversity and equity are key business initiatives.

In terms of authenticity, identify what stops you from being you then commit to practicing being authentic without fear. When in doubt, simplify by knowing your strengths and your role, reminding yourself that no one knows it better than you.

Community is built on the concept of power. It, in turns, comes from dominance (getting other people to do what you want them to do), defining how things are understood or controlling access to information, and the creation of transformation through connection with others. Building your own community is essential as you surround yourself with your squad of role models, co-workers and mentors.

Confidence begins with overcoming imposter syndrome. Watch for symptoms, such as self-doubt; an inability to realistically assess your competence and skills; or attributing your success to external factors. Confidence is essential for success so build yours by claiming your space at the table, fighting imposter syndrome, and playing the long game.

To stay true to you, find your why and act on it then take control of your narrative.

How do we build traction so the gains we’ve made will stick?

First, we need to look at what does not work: training that offers ridiculous scenarios that create disbelief, ignores denial, or doesn’t deal with personal growth as people just try to ‘get through it.’

The real change comes with the development of a growth mindset, constructive dialogue, mentorships, engagement in productive conflict, and bringing men aboard as allies.

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Men have a very important role in helping to support women who win, Kathleen says. They can help by:

  • Listening to and never interrupting women.
  • Amplifying women’s opinions and thoughts during meetings.
  • Speaking up when you see gender bias.
  • Going out of the way to praise women’s work in front of other colleagues.
  • Advocating for women, especially when there are opportunities.

“We all have to nurture and care for others, and we have to place value on those activities,” Kathleen says. “Men and women sometimes have conflicting interests; we have to value the female point of view and a person’s valuable qualities regardless of whether they are displayed by a woman or a man.”

“The human brain is malleable and capable of change. One of the most important ways of creating this change is to humanize and uplift marginalized people by amplifying their voices,” she concludes.

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