She's an industry disrupter!
Patrice Banks is disrupting the automotive industry with her business, Girls Auto Clinic. It is a one-stop-shop where customers can get their car fixed, receive quality education on what it needs, and get a manicure while they wait. Eight years ago, Banks was inspired to create a change in the automotive industry after facing years of uncertainty and disrespect when dealing with her car. She called herself an "auto airhead" with no clue how cars work.
One day she made a joke on social media that confirmed her beliefs that the auto world wasn't a safe space for women.
"My car needs an oil change, but I am going to get a mani-pedi instead," she wrote on her social media, and with it came attacks from men. They commented that she would break down on the side of the road and said other disparaging things about women and cars. However, women came to her defense, reminding her if she did break down, at least she'd look good with her hands and feet done.
At that point, she decided to find a woman mechanic, but she couldn't find anyone. The engineer chose to go back to school in 2012 for automotive technology. Now, her vision is to educate and empower women about cars.
"Each woman who operates a car should have a good education of how her car works and how to maintain it, a mechanic she trusts, and she should feel confident about her car-buying choices," Banks said in her TED Talk. "I want women to own their cars, and owning it means knowing it."
Girls Auto Clinic opened in 2017 and has been providing women with the technical skills they need and the peace of mind they craved when getting their car serviced. Banks also helps women buy cars. That same year, Banks published the Girls Auto Clinic Glove Box Guide, a book that educated and encouraged woman about whats happening under the hood of their cars. She said her customers often felt "misunderstood, mistreated, disrespected" during their car search, so she began consulting women in new and used car buying.
"Girls Auto Clinic is committed to creating a unique, comfortable, and confident automotive repair experience for women. We opened our doors in January 2017 to provide the Philadelphia area with dependable, honest, and educational auto repair. We offer full-service auto repair, women mechanics, and the cherry on top – manis and pedis while you wait at Clutch Lounge and Beauty Bar!"
Ladies, come to Girls Auto Clinic! We won’t shame you, we teach you to love your car and how to take care of it. Plus get your nails done while you wait!! 💋 https://t.co/tjSYMlpbk1— Girls Auto Clinic (@girlsautoclinic) August 29, 2021
At the Girls Auto Clinic, 75 percent of the clients and the majority of the workers are women. Their paid services include free monthly workshops to the public, where anyone can park their cars in the garage and learn how to check and maintain everything from oil to brakes to tires by themselves. Banks teaches in red, grease-stained heels - the shop's logo - and finds fun ways to remember essential maintenance tips such as friction is bad and lubrication is good. The engineer turned auto mechanic's vision of woman empowerment is displayed every day at work.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, less than 10% of auto mechanics are women; Banks workers can finally work in a place they are wanted and respected. In an interview with Time Magazine, one of Banks mechanics, Valerie Jedwabny, described inappropriate comments and touching from coworkers when she worked in most auto shops. At Girls Auto Clinic, everything changed.
And the customers, who unfortunately experienced similar inappropriate or rude interactions at male-dominated mechanics, are breathing a sigh of relief. Although the services may cost more than other businesses in the area, customers come for the experience and connection they receive at Bank's shop.
"I don't know anything about cars, so usually, when I go, I feel a little intimidated about whatever they're going to tell me the car needs," Erica Ezold told reporters. "This is going to be a different experience."
Another customer said she decided to stick with the shop because she felt at ease and would ask for Banks help anyway.
"I was going somewhere in the neighborhood, and the guy was always listening to Trump talk radio," Dominique Montgomery said.
She added that she'd once tried a different mechanic when an old car she had broke down too far from Girls Auto Clinic but ended up texting Girls Auto Clinic service advisor Colleen McClure for a second opinion.
"There are cheaper options," she says, "but it's not worth it to me."
After her response to a sexist tweet by a mechanic went viral this past August, social media has been rooting for her, with some hoping she comes to their city (or country) next.
Banks is disrupting this male-dominated field and creating a space where all feel welcome and empowered to hit the road - safely.
We can't wait to see this go nationwide!
Photo Courtesy of Patrice Banks