Calling All Women!

Women make up 51 percent of the population but only 6.4 percent of trade workers.

by Sarah Bruce

Originally published in Collision Quarterly, Summer 2019

In a time when recruitment is one of the main challenges being faced by the automotive industry, women have more employment opportunities than ever before.

For Kiara Reissner, the automotive industry was something that ran in the family. “My uncle has an automotive shop, so that’s where I started,” she said. She started off in the office doing clerical work but when the “shop boy” quit, she said she’d give it a go and discovered a job she really loved.

Until she graduated, Kiara never thought about a career in automotive. “In school, they pushed that we needed these academic courses and when people took mechanics it was kind of just to goof off. So I never really considered it until I started working in a shop and then I realized I actually really like this.”

“It may seem scary to go into a
place where you’re the only girl but I really I just see it as a positive thing.”

She worked there for five years until she wanted to take her skills to the next level and attend school. Last September, she started the automotive refinishing prep technician course at Vancouver Community College. She finished in January and started her painting apprenticeship at Richmond Auto Body, in North Vancouver, B.C.

She loves her job because of the opportunities it offers. “I like working with my hands. I find I can’t sit. I like to constantly be moving. I like that it’s different every day and not every job is the same.”

And she feels there are a lot of really great benefits to being a woman in the workplace. “In school you get picked for things. And everyone always remembers your name because there is usually only one girl.” Plus, there are a lot of scholarship and bursary opportunities available to women looking to work in the automotive industry. She added, “I actually feel that because people are worried I’ll be ‘emotional’ they treat me nicer.”

“Everyone asks me if I have experienced anything bad [about being a woman in the trades] and I haven’t,” she said. “Not from people I work with at all. Maybe from customers but never the people I work with. I feel part of the team.”

Being the only woman in the workplace, she has had nothing but positive experiences. “It may seem scary to go into a place where you’re the only girl but I really just see it as a positive thing.”

The only thing Kiara is lacking in the workplace is other women. “I’m the only girl that works in the shop but at school there was one other girl and it was nice. Other than wishing there were more women, everything has been good.”

Her goal is to go back to school and eventually be Red Seal certified. “Once I have my Red Seal I’m interested in doing custom work like pin-striping and airbrushing.”

Kiara is not alone in hoping more women will get involved in the automotive industry. The Automotive Retailers Association (ARA) will be hosting an event celebrating women in the automotive and powersports industries on June 27 in Burnaby, B.C. This will be an excellent opportunity for recruitment and networking. If you are interested in getting involved go to ara.bc.cafor more information.

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