A female garage owner and female mechanic from Redruth have spoken out about the difficulties of working in the 'male chauvinist' motor industry.
A recent survey by Approved Garages showed half of the 1,330 woman participants admitted to asking a male friend or family member to accompany them to a garage when their car needed a service or repair work doing, in a bid to be treated fairly and so they wouldn’t get ripped off.
But it’s not just female customers who feel they get a rough ride, and Karen Gallagher and Samantha Congden of Redruth's North Country Garage have explained what it’s really like to work in a male dominated industry.
Karen, 49, owner of North Country Garage , said: “It’s still such a male chauvinistic environment and a lot of garages won’t take on female mechanics. Most women are discounted before even being given a chance.”
“The motor industry hasn’t changed enough over the years,” added Karen. “I think it will change eventually but it will take a long time before we see that.”
Mechanic, Samantha, 27, who works at the garage, struggled to get a job after passing the four-year mechanics course at Cornwall College with distinction.
“It’s hard as a female to get into the trade. Everywhere I went to get employment wouldn’t take me. I must have tried about twelve different garages and was turned down by all of them. I think it was because I was a woman that they didn’t want to take me on, but I stuck at it because I’ve always wanted to be a mechanic, even if some people thought it was quite an unusual choice for a woman.
“I would encourage women to go into the motor trade and if you fall at the first hurdle, don’t give up.”
Sam, of Falmouth, has worked as a mechanic for nine years and spent the past seven years attending courses to constantly update her skills and knowledge.
“Attitudes need to change mostly because a lot of people in the trade see it as a male environment.
“There’s a lot of difference between how I’m treated by male and female customers. When women customers bring in their cars a lot of them ask for me personally possibly because they trust me more because I’m a woman.
“But when men come in and ask me if someone can take a look at their car and then I follow them out they look at me quite strangely. When I’ve told them what’s wrong with their car and asked if they want a second opinion, because they seem sceptical, it makes me feel like I don’t know what I’m talking about. Fortunately we don’t get a lot of customers like that anymore because they’ve realised I know what I’m doing.”
Karen added: “Our customers respond very well to Sam but they automatically assume Sam is a man until they meet her. She had a hard run to get where she is, but once she’s dealt with a customer she gets their confidence. She’s a better mechanic than some of the men I’ve employed.”