Each week for Wrenching Women Wednesday, we focus our efforts on shining a light on Women in Automotive and their journey’s in automotive. This week, we would like to introduce our very own Katie French, Auto Repair Expert at RepairPal.
Some of Katie’s accomplishments include:
- Founder of Wrenching Women Wednesday
- Automotive Repair Expert for RepairPal
- Advanced Automotive Technology Graduate from NEIT
- Current student of Ranken Technical College
This is Katie’s story
At an early age, I found myself always building something, tinkering, or fixing my bicycle. It wasn’t until my mom bought my first PowerWheels Jeep that I really became interested in cars. I didn’t have any family members that were technicians, so I didn’t have the ability at such a young age to shadow anyone turning wrenches. It wasn’t until I was in middle school that the opportunity arose for me to apply to the regional vocational high school for the automotive program. I begged my parents, but their answer was no. My mom told me that the automotive field was no place for a woman, and to work smarter, not harder. Little did she know at that time how profitable and successful someone could be in this industry, if they just worked hard and applied themselves.
When I moved into my own space, I decided to give a private technical school a try. I was there only a few months before I threw in the towel. No one was teaching anything. It felt as if they took our money and then left us high and dry. It was the worst educational experience of my life- but at the time, I thought it was my fault. I thought because I’m a woman, I must be completely incapable of learning this trade. All of those people that continued to tell me such things, I started to believe.
Fast-forward to 2016, when my son was only 1-month old, I gave it another try- but this time, I found New England Institute of Technology in East Greenwich, RI. This time, I still felt like the black sheep of the family pursuing something I knew my family didn’t exactly want me involved in. It turned out to be the most incredible experience of my life. Their automotive program is unmatched, and I absolutely loved working with my professors. By May of 2017, I graduated at the top of my class (1 ½ years ahead of the class I started with), and a list of certifications and awards to take with me into my career.
I’ve been everywhere from dealership technician, to parts department, to warranty administration, and I’ve even taught technicians as a technical training specialist for an automotive manufacturer. Hell, I even worked in sales for a short time- but let’s face it- the only home I know is the service department. Additionally, in 2018, I started posting #TechTipTuesday videos on social media platforms, and in 2019, I started #WrenchingWomenWednesday.. Today, I work as an Automotive Repair Expert at RepairPal, and after all these years, I finally feel valued and appreciated at my job. I love how supportive the community at RP is, and my teammates beam positivity and are always finding creative, new ways to approach the task at hand and crush our goals. I never knew a workplace could be so healthy, especially in the automotive field.
I started #WrenchingWomenWednesday because I wanted a platform to share other women’s stories in the automotive industry and give them a chance to be seen and celebrated. It’s 2022, and a lot of changes have happened in this industry to make it more inclusive for women- but what many are blind to is how much adversity we still face every single day. Some women are too afraid to tell their stories because it’s hard enough to try and get a foot in the door at a repair shop as it is! A lot of service managers see us as a sexual harassment risk if they put us in the shop, or incapable of shop duties because of our size or our gender. Or even that we can’t be committed because we have children (which is a very real thing, called “the maternal wall”.)
This one day per week that I’m able to feature these women-
I hope that it gives them strength to keep pushing forward.
I hope that they feel appreciated for their hard work and efforts.
I hope they realize that little girls all over the world are reading their stories and they’re empowering the next generation of tradeswomen.
I have been bullied in this field, abused, lied to, and had doors slam in my face. But I press on, because my daughter is watching me. I want her to know that she is bulletproof, and can accomplish anything she sets her mind to. The only limits in this automotive industry are the ones we set for ourselves. The brilliant Jill Trotta once said, “Don’t wait to take your turn, just take it.”
To my women in automotive,
I see you, I love you, and I am here for you.– Katie French
About Katie French
Katie French is an Automotive Repair Expert at RepairPal. Her love for the automotive industry began at a young age learning how to fix bicycles and driving around the neighborhood in a pink Power Wheels Jeep. To pursue a career in the field, Katie attended NEIT for Advanced Automotive Technology out in East Greenwich, RI. Since graduating from the automotive program, Katie has worn many hats in the auto industry over the years, and has treated every day as a school day. She currently is working toward a Bachelor’s Degree in Applied Management with a concentration in Fleet Management from Ranken Technical College in St. Louis, MO. In her free time, Katie enjoys empowering women in skilled trades, Jeep builds, and spending time with her family.