Schools Training

Few and Far Between: A Look at Women in the Mechanics Industry

29 MAY 2012
Career Path : Automotive

Despite a near equal gender balance in the workforce, the mechanics trade industry is almost completely void of women. But easily accessible apprenticeship programs may encourage more women to get under the hood.

We don’t have to look too far back into our history books to see that women have made incredible strides in the workforce. Not even fifty years ago women were still fighting to be given fair consideration for positions traditionally held by men. Today, women represent a good portion of most employment industries, including medical, legal, financial and business. According to a census report by Statistics Canada, women made up 47.3% of the entire Canadian workforce in 2006. This percentage rose slightly to 47.5% in 2011, illustrating that women continue to hold a near equal balance as men in the workforce at large.

But when we move from a general to a more specific perspective, we will notice that gender equality does not carry into every industry. There is no denying that jobs in certain industries will be filled more by one gender than the other. For example, in 2011 women made up more than two-thirds of the entire education industry, which includes both administrator and educator positions.

However, there is an even more alarming difference in gender representation in the mechanics industry. Currently, women hold less than 2% of all mechanist positions. In fact, it isn’t only in mechanics where women fall short on the employee head count. A 2011 Statistics Canada study shows that women make up 7.4% of positions held in Trades, transport and equipment operators and related occupations. The data is most certainly surprising, and I don’t think any of us thought that this wide of a disparity continues to exist today.

It is difficult to pinpoint the exact reason why women are so under-represented in the mechanics trade. We need to be weary of jumping to the assumption that the industry as a whole is guilty of sexism. I don’t think this is the case at all. While sexism is an ongoing battle that both women and men have to face in the workforce, I don’t think it makes for a sufficient explanation. There are other realities that must be considered, including the very fact that women are just not applying for these positions. Again, this does not suffice as a complete explanation, but women’s preference for trades other than mechanics needs to be included in the examination of the existing gender disparities.

Lastly, women may feel somewhat inhibited to mechanics because of how male-dominated the industry has been for so long. The only way to overcome this is for women to simply apply themselves to the trade.  There are trade schools across the country, and women are just as eligible to apply as men are. Further, most trade schools or vocational colleges will offer apprenticeship programs, meaning students will be working while studying, thereby increasing their chances of employment upon graduation.

One might think that the only options available would be an auto mechanic apprenticeship or a general mechanic apprenticeship, however, there are many different types of mechanist jobs with corresponding apprenticeship programs. Here are just a few, complete with a snap shot of topics that are covered:

Automotive Service Educational Program

  • Engines & Body Control System
  • Steering & Suspension
  • Driveline Auto Transaxles
  • Diesel Engines and Electronics Controls
  • Air Bag Systems

General Mechanist

  • Benchwork Techniques
  • Surface Grinding Technology
  • Milling Technology
  • Metallurgy
  • Engineering Drawings

Truck and Coach Technician

  • Engine Systems
  • Electrical Systems
  • Fuel Systems
  • Drive Train Systems
  • Brake Systems

Industrial Technician

  • Machine Techy
  • Workshop Techy
  • Rigging & Hoisting
  • Drawings & Schematics
  • Welding & Fabric

We can only hope that in time women will represent a bigger percentage of the mechanics industry.