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Crossing over to the auto world. It can be a girl thing!

Published Nov 27th 2007, 9:20am by Jody DeVere in Featured Articles

Ap_kadiwow_174679699 Our culture is littered with phrases such as "Boys will be boys" and "It's a girl thing," but what do those sayings actually mean? It's not uncommon to encounter hostility when attempting to disprove the innateness of gender, since gender has become so entwined in the social fabric of our society. When someone oversteps the boundaries of "acceptable" gendered behavior, the response is, at best, mocking. Growing up as the only child of a service member, I was always told, "All the fish are going one way. You, you my dear are going the other way." My father, to this day even though I am 26, married, and a mother, still tells me that.

During the months that my father was home from overseas deployments (being that he was in the Coast Guard), we would get together and bond by turning wrenches and talking hot rod shop talk. I was raised on the small island of Ketchikan, Alaska, where the only girl playmate away. I attended a private Catholic school where I journeyed through grade school with the same 13 people for six years. When I played, it was with the boys, or no one at all. I learned to make bike ramps, create forts in the woods, fish, hunt, and most all the other "boy" things growing up. It took a lot to become accepted in the neighborhood, because I was the only female, but I really feel that it was the being process in molding my character to be just that, different.

My family was re-stationed to Wilmington, North Carolina, in 1991, whenI was in the middle of my fourth-grade year. My parents yet again, enrolled me in a private school, where I learned priceless lifelong virtues and values. I was never the popular one, always on the outside of the girl's circle; they tolerated me and would talk to me, but they never accepted me in their clique. I think it was due to the fact that I never really had been involved with girls growing up, so I wasn't really interested in them at that point either, or offended by them, for that matter. I was never really into purple, pink, and bows, I liked my jeans, legos, and my Honda 125 three-wheeler.

Ap_gunnarsonadventures_1103418613 Finishing up my 8th grade year was unsettling, as my parents were building a house in the country, and I knew that meant I would soon be making new friends once again, and getting introduced into the public school system. Signing up for my first semester of classes, I requested to enroll in automotive class, but I was told no because I was female. I was not educated enough at the time to know that this was discrimination, so I took it in stride. During my sophomore year, I tried once again to enroll in automotive class, but I was told it was full, later to find out that was not true. So I began attending automotive class on the side. During my lunch break I would go into auto class and participate, until the principal saw me and reprimanded me for not being where I was supposed to be during my lunch hour. All the while, unbeknownst to him, he was feeding my drive, my hunger, and my passion to learn about cars. So I got a job in an independent garage not far from my house as an apprentice.

This saga dragged on until my senior year, when we got a new principal. A woman. On the first day of school, I made an appointment with her to talk about my painful struggle of enrolling in the automotive class. Thankfully, I was able to attend automotive class my entire 12th grade year, and graduated with a major in automotive. The principal, Mrs. Dempsey, gave me a huge window of opportunity, to the point that I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I was going to be a female mechanic.

Three months after graduation of high school I started automotive classes at Wayne Community College, the closest automotive education facility where I could get certified with some substance to use in the workforce. When I joined the General Motors Automotive Service Excellency Program (GM ASEP) there were 24 enrollees, of which I was the only female. GM ASEP was a co-op program where I learned in a classroom setting for two months and worked at a dealership for two months. This went on for two years, and I soaked up every moment, what an experience! I graduated with an associate degree in automotive science on September 11, 2002 with the remaining six classmates who had endured and conquered the entire program, and, still, I was the only woman. I carried that passion and drive into the dealership setting where I turned wrenches in a large dealership, with many mechanics -- once again -- as the only female.

Later, I married a soldier and was stationed in Alaska, and became a mother. I still wanted to remain involved in the automotive industry, be a mother, and the wife of a now deployed soldier. So I began to volunteer for the Army educating wives who also had deployed soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan to teach them to take better care of themselves while their husbands were defending this great country.

After being relocated to Tennessee, I went back to work. I am now an Assistant Service Manager at a local Toyota dealership, a automotive seminar facilitator, and a Advisor. It is my honor to share my knowledge with others, and to assist women in empowering themselves with knowledge they would not necessarily have access to.


By Amanda J. Pierce Expert Advisor

photos by kadiwow and gunnarsonadventures, via flickr



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