If someone told you that your high school was filled with students and only 6.6% of those students were female, would you be outraged? Or possibly afraid to attend? Only 66 girls out of 1000 males in a school? Can you imagine how much bra-strap snapping must be going on?
Well at Automotive High School in New York City is a public high school in Brooklyn devoted to training New York City’s youth to work on cars. The graduates will go on to be tomorrow’s mechanics or, at least, a more knowledgeable generation when it comes to automotive repair and maintenance. Hmmm, sounds like a neat idea. What is so radical about the school are the girls that attend.
According to the Village Voice, “The school teaches how to fix cars, but these teenage girls also learn in essence how to fix themselves. They shatter stereotypes as well as break through cultural and social barriers. The process gives them a tough exterior, which will help them overcome the challenges that await in the real world, a real world that is not always fair to women.”
The school takes a tough edge on learning but a softer edge on the girls attending. Girls at Automotive are special. “Privileges,” Principal Ms. Silberman says, “are necessary to help them through the four-year male immersion. They don't even get a prom, so something has to keep them from transferring.” Before you rise up, waving flags of equality, think about this: Isn’t it better to encourage and support these young women in this traditionally non-female industry? By entering the automotive field, these girls could potentially earn on average 25 percent more than in more traditional lines of work, bumping them up a couple of socioeconomic notches and giving them the opportunity to be self-sufficient.
Automotive High is working on the boys as well. They are trying to create a comfort level around women, so when the boys become men in the workplace, they will treat all clients with equal respect and not with the condescension toward women that is commonly attributed to the automotive industry. The attitude is less "boys will be boys" and more "boys become men."
So we say, Rock on Automotive High School! Encourage these girls to break down barriers and shine in an otherwise unfeminine industry. Challenge the status quo and all of us will be rooting for you and waiting to see the successes you will bring to an industry so many other women love. Good Luck!