Meet the woman challenging gender stereotypes, one hot rod at a time

Fed up with being a self-described “auto airhead,” Patrice Banks decided to try and find a female auto mechanic to teach her the basics about taking care of her car. Instead, she came face to face with the extreme gender disparity of the male-dominated industry — and decided she would do something about it. A few years ago, Banks started taking auto repair classes at a local community college in Philadelphia. After receiving a degree in automotive technology, she quit her job to launch the Girls Auto Clinic.

“After 12 years working as an engineer for a Fortune 500 company. . . I traded high heels and an air-conditioned office for boots, Dickies and grime-covered hands,” Banks writes in an essay for The Washington Post. “The reason was simple: I was tired of feeling like an auto airhead and getting scammed by the male-dominated car-care industry.”

Banks goes on to cite multiple, disappointing statistics to back up her claim. Most notably, according to a study by Northwestern University and AutoMD, auto-repair shops are more likely to give women higher price quotes than men if the customer seems uninformed. The study’s authors were quick to point out that the bias wasn’t necessarily intentional, but that it likely stemmed from ingrained, sexist stereotypes. It ends up being a vicious cycle: Women are conditioned to believe they shouldn’t care about cars — and if they do, they’re dissuaded from showing interest and discouraged from joining the industry. A 2013 survey from the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated that only 1.5% of automotive body repairers and 1.8% of automotive service technicians and mechanics were women. Banks hopes to help change that with her company.

The Girls Auto Clinic aims to empower women through education, and to make basic auto mechanic knowledge more accessible for all. Since staring the company in 2013, Banks has released a book, The Girls Auto Clinic Glove Box Guide, and has traveled around the Tri-State area to teach young girls and women alike about what her program hopes to achieve. She’s even given a TED Talk, called “How I Plan On Disrupting the Auto Industry. . . In Red Heels” — so it’s obvious that this woman means business and knows her stuff.

“Do I need that air filter they tell me I need? How do I jump-start my car? I teach what everybody needs to know about cars,” she told ABC News.

And in case, for some reason, you have doubts that girls are just as capable of getting their hands dirty and figuring out auto mechanics as boys are, we have definitive proof that is far from the case. In an amazing video that has recently gone viral, a 5-year-old girl named Charlie is shown breaking down a car engine all by herself. She’s basically a modern day, much smaller Rosie the Riveter — and it’s all kinds of awesome.

“My 5-year-old daughter learning a little automotive knowledge,” the video’s YouTube caption reads. “Yes, I know you should mark your rods, but we are tearing down to the block, and getting all new guts.”

Given that I have no idea what any of that means, I’m going to go ahead and assume that this girl could school me on all things auto-related any day. And in case you were worried about all that gunk on her hands, the caption assures us we have nothing to fear.

“That is mostly built up old mud on her hands,” it reads. “We scrubbed her down about twenty minutes after this.”

Watch Charlie in action for yourself below, and find out more about the Girls Auto Clinic here.

(Images , via.)