The featured image on this article should get your blood boiling. If it doesn’t then read the description given by the online photograph provider; “Close-up of beautiful girl is sitting on a tire near a black car repairing the front wheel in the garage. A girl looks at the camera with a smile.” Oh FFS! Of course, that is the exact same outfit I often find myself wearing while changing a tyre. What? You don’t? That’s weird!
While writing this article I started searching for an ‘appropriate’ pic . I typed in, “Professional woman and cars.” This is not the only picture that came up, but it came up! How appropriate for this article, right?
My mom handed me a newspaper clipping this morning (yes, she is turning in to my Gran) about women in the car industry. She had read it over the weekend in the Saturday Argus and obviously having a daughter in this exact industry, she felt I should read it. And she was right. Its focus is not necessarily on motoring journalism as such and more on the the automotive industry as a whole, but it certainly tells my story.
Some of you might not know this, but it was only in 2014 that a woman was made the head of an automotive company. Can you actually believe it? Just when you think we, as women, have come so far, you quickly realise that we have not come nearly far enough. Now before you start shouting “Feminist” at me, go and look up what “Feminism” actually means. Done it? Well done! For those who think they know what it is, it is merely the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of equality of the sexes. It is not a negative term so often mistaken to be.
Mary Barra was made CEO of General Motors and so is THE ONLY FEMALE at the head of a large automotive company. And do you want to know what the worst part is? She still gets paid less than her male counterparts. HOW??? How is this possible in 2018?
Reading her story made me think of my own. Ok, I am in NO WAY the same as her I do realise. I do not head up a massive company and I certainly don’t know as much as she does. But, I have been in this industry now for eleven years and the experiences I have had have not been too dissimilar to hers.
It has taken me many years to be taken seriously and still there are many who don’t take me seriously. It doesn’t help that I play the fool or that I am open about making mistakes – something which seems acceptable for men to do. I am constantly having to prove that I do in fact know what a car is. I have had so many sexist and inappropriate remarks thrown at me that it is hard to count. When mentioning the magazine I work for (at the time CAR magazine) I was asked if I was the receptionist on too many occasions I care to remember. I have been told that I have no business in this industry because “…women don’t really belong in a car world.” It has been assumed that I wouldn’t want to drive on a track because, you know, I wouldn’t know how! I have been the butt of many a blonde joke, told that my opinion of a car is ‘incorrect,’ asked why I would want to be in this industry – by people who are in this industry, and I have been made to feel inferior in every way possible and cast aside when it came to the “serious car reviews.” Often a manufacturer will put me on the ‘Lifestyle’ rotation of a car launch because, well I am a woman and therefore can’t be with the “serious” motoring journalists, right? My mistakes are because I am a woman, not because I merely made a mistake. And so the list goes on.
It’s been one hell of a ride, but it’s one I would do again and again.
Because as much as I have experienced the bad side of being in a male-dominated industry, so too have I experienced the great side of it. I have met some extraordinary men, some of whom have become my best friends. Most of my colleagues treat me no differently to their male colleagues. I have been given opportunities because I am a woman. And most importantly, there is never a queue for the women’s toilet because I am often the only woman on a launch.
Unfortunately, like anything negative, it is a small few who tarnish the whole. It might have taken me longer to prove myself, but it was a journey I was willing to take. And I quite like being an exception to the rule, a unique entity, if you will. There are a handful of female motoring journalists in South Africa and I am privileged to call them my friends. I am sure we have all experienced similar things and it is not often we talk about it because people are sick of hearing women moan, or so I have been told. But maybe we should keep talking about it. Will it change anything? Who knows. The industry as a whole is changing (to the dismay of many older colleagues) so hopefully, with these changes, so comes a change in the mindset of those who still believe women and cars don’t go together.
I say, “Don’t hate the player Motherf*****! (Mic drop)
Now go and read my letter to idiot drivers.