Ruth Morrison has taught an automotive course at Southern Maine Community College (SMCC) for nearly five years. A new member-representative, Morrison was the only woman to attend the first Hybrid and Electric Vehicle Propulsion Systems training for instructors held recently at the NAFTC headquarters in Morgantown, WV.
Morrison first discovered her ability and passion in the automotive industry by accident. She tried working on an old vehicle one day and realized how much she enjoyed it and thought it could be a career option for her. While the NAFTC has trained thousands of technicians, very few have been women.
The number of women entering the field has increased from past years, but they still make up a small percentage of the total number. With approximately 800,000 automotive service technicians and mechanics in the U.S., only about 13,000 are women according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Morrison admits she has been met with opposition at times. “One time I was working at a repair shop and a customer said he didn’t want me working on his car even though I was more qualified than anyone else there.” Fortunately, her boss quickly addressed the issue, and she ended up fixing the car after all.
She has also seen some of her female students struggle to find a career despite having stellar grades. She recognizes that organizations may be hesitant to change the company culture by adding a female to an all-male team, but Morrison encourages her students to persist and says, “once they’re given the chance to prove themselves, no one will be able to tell them no.”
At SMCC, Morrison has established a club for women in nontraditional careers called Women in Art, Science, and Technology. “The club lets students know there are careers available in the automotive industry for them, and it gives them exposure to this knowledge,” she said. “For women who are already in a trade, we want them to know they’re not alone.”
Morrison also sees how the industry is changing, and she thinks it’s time women get more involved. She said, “You don’t have to be big and strong to work on cars. Alternative fuel technology requires a lot more brain than brawn, and we need all the knowledge that we can get.”