Gender in the Car World

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Recently I engaged in a twitter back and forth with a woman auto journalist & editor of a large on-line concern; a person who hires many writers.  I was noticing the lack of men in the room in her video at a Mercedes-Benz introduction.  She let me know that gender today was a non-issue and she wasn’t going to write about how ponytails fit in cars, that car reviews were non-gendered writing. I answered, I hoped that she would write about ponytails fitting in cars. . Women want more cues they can relate to. Our eyes glass over of boredom. Women need to be interested in wheels supporting and controlling them.

In the last 30 plus years, there continues to be an overwhelming large group of men in the room and a smattering of women, mostly from the Public Relations side. Hearing from her made me re-look at the issue now.

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High ‘T’ in the Room

Fewer automotive involved women today is more of a cultural condition than something done thoughtfully. There is reason why Car and Driver Magazine has almost ten million male readers and less than a million women. Oh, yes like my friend said,”That’s an enthusiast magazine not fair to compare.”

Right she was, so show me the car enthusiast magazines for women? Men are more interested in cars and they also like reading car magazines written by men.  While having said that I know and have known woman with a great interest in cars and excellent car journalists, yet it’s not typical.

woman-engineer-cross-section-jaguar-engine-detailsWhether it’s a question of just how we raise our girls and I believe it is, we need to do a better job in the early years of cultivating an interest in machines. Girls are not quick to open up a hood.  My husband (notice not me!) made sure our daughter was well schooled in the ways of checking fluids, understanding her drive line and taking care of her tires. Now she maintains her own vehicle and isn’t scared to pick up a wrench,   In fact, she helped her husband rebuild his engine.

Turn the Key & Go, Please…

To be rude & borderline sexist, here goes; most of us ladies want to get in turn the key and go and not think about maintenance at all . I am guessing Perthshire-Women-Tire-Repair-motor-carriagemost do not even visually check their tires before they enter their vehicle.  I watch people drive off all the time  unaware, not noticing a very low tire or brake light out. Most people on the side of the road need gas or have a slight mechanical issue that might of been avoided with an observant eye.

But most women I know in my peer group defer to their husbands and even their sons to manage car repair and maintenance. They may check their fluids once in awhile, but crashed-front-of-carits not something they even think to do at a gas up.

Social media encourages a pretty picture.  Often the most important details like safety are overlooked in favor of styling.   Image doesn’t  matter if a t-bone crash crushes my left foot & my car is not strong enough to protect me.

Women Auto Writers Wanted

If you look at the journalist members of the Los Angeles based Motor Press Guild (I’m a member)you get an accurate picture of woman choosing to be career auto journalists. Roughly 90% of all writing members are men and a meager 10% are women. About 3% of those women are in business with their husbands.

What we need to do is cultivate a healthy interest in personal transportation by women. Not some silly article about heels and driving, but articles and broadcasts that help women want to know the machines that control their lives.  Automobiles are now the single machine most likely to seriously damage or kill you.  Automobile finances can be damaging too.

You usually don’t find a column about personal transportation in women’s magazines and that is where we are really falling off.   Automobiles and bicycles play a substantial role in emancipating women. Catch us in our youth and when we are reading about something we love, clothes, hair, makeup, car styling, fashion and how things operate!

Websites Work for Dealerships; Raining Men

Of course, you can find ladies at the large corporate car pushing-selling websites like AskPatty, Autobytel, Cars.com, Edmunds.comGM-Drive-to-Succeed-Scholarship, Kelly’s or TRUEcar but who are the woman enthusiasts reading?   These websites are making money off of baiting them with “important” information then feeding them to the dealers for thousands of dollars per day.

A Wall St Journal article on woman and car buying reveals that 91% of  automobile salespeople are men. If that’s the case, what are the numbers for the repair department employees. (!)

You may not be surprised but many woman enthusiasts are Consumer Reports readers.  The practical place for car shoppers. Woman like more practical cars, with good visibility, safety and mileage, cars that don’t stick out in a crowd.  Cars that go from place A to place B in relative style and comfort. Women are less brand conscious when it comes to buying. Woman enthusiastically want a safe, reliable, comfortable, pleasantly styled vehicle.  Maybe that’s what we are saving all our enthusiasm for.

Cultivating Interest, Slowly Changing

woman-in-factoryWhat we can do is encourage young women and older women to learn more about their  personal transportation.   This empowers greater freedom, choice and independence as we age. Our culture needs some tweaking as well.  If you look at the numbers of women graduates they are changing in medicine and engineering. According to the Department of Education, women are receiving over 55% of all degrees in medicine, up from 9% in 1969.

Engineering schools in the 1900’s did not accept women and then only reluctantly over the years, because they were thought to be a distraction and a waste of an education because “they lacked the basic capabilities.” It has been a tough go for women in this field. The Department of Education shows a meager 18.4% of engineering degrees were awarded to women in the last year.

Where’s the Title 9 for women engineers?

So we have a ways to go before gender parity in engineering. More youngowners-man-tire-change girls are interested in math and science so the thinking should systemically evolve. Unfortunately, like doctors women engineers tend to make less than men.  This  seriously discourages female enthusiasm.

You may need a wonderfully strong cup of coffee, but hey there lady go crack open your car owner’s manual and give it a spin.  It’s the proper place to start. Your owner’s manual is chock full of good safety and maintenance information. There are excellent diagrams and many driving tips. Just spend a half-hour with it per time. Work your way through it. You’ll be more prepared when you need the info to save your behind.

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