Working women in Auto Tech

What it’s like to be a woman in Shorewood’s male- dominated Auto Tech program


Elle Grant hard at work in the auto shop. (Photo courtesy of Maren Bell)

by Kaylee Logan, Staff

Awkward. Weird. Underestimated. Babied. All these words have been used to describe what being one of the few women in Shorewood’s Automotive Technology class is like. Despite the struggles of a male-dominated class, most of these women, myself included, still enjoy attending class and have worked our way through the levels of the course. 

Learning a historically masculine subject with male-dominated class as a woman can be difficult but it has good parts too. I took Autos 1 my sophomore year on Zoom, and now during my senior year I am in Autos 2. Autos is one of my favorite classes. I am always learning new information and skills that I will be able to use in the future. I get to have hands-on real work experiences and have even gotten the chance to fix some issues with my vehicle. 

Other women who take Autos are often surprised to find themselves as one of a few women in the class. “I counted and was like ‘oh wow there’s only four girls in here,’” junior Callie Sauter explained. Sauter is a student at Shorecrest who travels to Shorewood in order to take Autos. 

Ausia Guerrero, sophomore, decided to take Autos at the recommendation of her brother who had enjoyed the class during his time in high school. She feels like the class isn’t changed by being a different gender than the majority of her classmates. “I don’t feel like it’s different from any other class. Everyone is there to learn,” she said. “Everyone makes it really inclusive and no matter who it is, they are willing to help or lend a hand.”

I feel like girls have to put in more work to be seen by others, especially their peers. – Callie Sauter, 11

A lot of the students in Auto Tech are inclusive.      I have been lucky enough to be placed with a group that is happy to answer my questions. Unfortunately not every woman has had positive experiences. “People really underestimate you. Someone told me ‘are you sure you can do that with your manicure?’” said Sauter. “I feel like girls have to put in more work to be seen by others, especially their peers, not at all the teacher.” 

In fact, Wes Proudlove, the autos teacher, is supportive of women taking the class. “It’s definitely hard, but it is something that girls can totally excel at. Girls are often organized and thoughtful which can help a lot when working on a vehicle.”

Even with Proudlove’s efforts, it can still be hard to learn a historically masculine subject. Ella Drake, senior, said, “It doesn’t feel targeted towards me most of the time,” She later continued. “I just feel like from the get go it’s been such a male-dominated industry and even with opening up to women, women don’t want to do it as much because they don’t feel as included.”

I have felt the same way about the automotive industry. I love watching car racing but it is hard to find female representation in the sport, especially behind the wheel. Even the videos shown in class almost always show men working on cars, not women. “I feel like it’s just a social norm that guys are more into cars and girls aren’t and I feel like that shouldn’t be the social norm because everyone can do cars,” said Guerrero. 

Gender doesn’t matter with cars. – Ella Drake, 12

Even with its limits, Shorewood is still a great place to learn auto tech. Elle Grant, a senior, gained an interest in auto tech after working in an auto shop. She moved to Shorewood because of its automotive program. “In this class you’re set up for success,” she said. “Like if you don’t go in and ask any questions or try to do anything people will still try to get you to do stuff… but out in the real world everyone is preying on your downfall, especially if you’re a girl.” 

Grant has felt her confidence grow as a result of being in the class. “It’s intimidating,” she said. “You kind of just have to ask questions and not be afraid to have the wrong answer. Having thick skin is a huge part of this class and it’s honestly built my confidence up enough that I can talk to 45-year-old dudes about their cars and not be nervous about it.” 

I would love to see more women in auto tech, and so do the other women in Shorewood’s program. Grant thinks that “support from other women” would lead more girls to the class. She also shared that “the cool guys I’ve met have been like ‘I love when women do it.’” Senior Kiya Mullins echoed Grant’s sentiment: “Female on female talking would probably get more people in the field and interested in it. I also feel like it’s better to have a male say that we would like you in here.” I agree, when it gets hard, having women to look up to has definitely motivated me but having men reach out and make an effort to have you feel included is just as beneficial. 

I hope that the automotive industry becomes more open to women and more women take on the challenge, starting here at Shorewood. Drake put it well, saying “I think it’s so awesome when women take on that industry and show that gender doesn’t matter with cars.”