Girl torque: Victoria’s female mechanics
They may be in the minority, but female mechanics can drive change and map out new opportunities in the car industry.
There’s a big, bright billboard featuring ‘Rosie the Riveter’, a cultural icon of the women war workers of the 1940s, out the front of Braeside Automotive in the grey industrial landscape of Melbourne’s south east.
Behind the factory's doors, mother-and-daughter team Jillian and Genevieve Edwards are akin to pin-up girls for many young women who hope to become mechanics.
Jillian receives at least one call a day from young women looking for apprenticeships. Her business is still too young to accommodate them but, in the future, she hopes to do her bit for the ‘campaign’ and make Rosie proud.
Genevieve, 21, moves confidently between the cars she’s servicing and updates Jillian on her progress. There are several other cars lined up out the back — it’s a busy day in the workshop — and there’s not a bloke in sight.
Jillian, a petite middle-aged woman with a marketing background, says she used to drive Genevieve to and from her job as an apprentice mechanic and spent many hours waiting for her to clock off. She saw first-hand how the business operated and thought she “could do a whole lot better”.
A timely divorce settlement prompted Jillian to invest in the auto repair shop and she admits that, apart from the basics, she knew nothing about cars.
More than 18 months down the track, and with a growing number of loyal customers, Jillian plans to expand the business and is studying Parts Interpretation and Automotive Business Management through MEGT Australia. Mario Pannacci, her supervisor in the self-paced, on-the-job training course, is an important mentor to both Jillian and Genevieve.
This is not the first time the business has attracted interest and Jillian is a little bemused. After all, women ‘on tools’ are hardly a new thing. Before becoming Queen, Princess Elizabeth trained as a mechanic and truck driver as part of the war effort. And in Rosie’s day, countless women worked in factories and shipyards, producing munitions and war supplies.