This is the year 2018, yet you’d still need a magnifying glass to find a single woman among a crowd of men in certain industries. Automotive engineering or mechatronics are examples of fields that are still dominated by men. Yet some women have discovered a passion for careers like these and don’t have a problem being the only women working alongside a high number of male colleagues. Luisa Thomas is one of these women. She’s an automotive engineering apprentice at the company Urban. I know Luisa personally and pitched some questions to her in an interview.
What was it that made you choose this particular career? Did you have contact with technical careers at an early age (through your family)?
My dad’s a locksmith by trade, so he always used to take me with him to the workshop. I must have been five years old at the time; I always used to pass him the tools he needed. Suppose you could say that my dad introduced me to technical work early on. I’d say that’s probably how I came to know and love the workshop. Today, I’m glad that I’ve found a career that’s so varied and so much fun.
It’s clearly something remarkable to be the only woman working alongside so many men. Do you think this is more of an advantage or a disadvantage?
Speaking for myself, I honestly can’t see any disadvantages. Sometimes I can’t do quite as much heavy lifting, but otherwise I don’t notice any difference.
How do you assert yourself among all the men?
Generally speaking, I don’t need to assert myself at all. I always stay focused on my work and listen carefully to my male colleagues. My inquisitive nature and will to learn new things make working with male colleagues a lot of fun. There’s sometimes a little light-hearted banter, although I think that’s perfectly normal and something that every male or female apprentice would come across at some point.
What kind of prejudices do you have to deal with?
To begin with, my grandparents had misgivings about my choice of career. I think they would have preferred me to have a more classically female job as a florist or a nursery teacher. They’ve since come around to understanding my penchant for cars and support my choice in every respect. Although it’s not a prejudice as such, I’m not usually assigned tasks that involve a lot of strenuous physical labour.
What was your funniest workshop moment so far?
Last winter, we arrived at the workshop in the morning after it had just snowed. There was a lot of the white stuff lying on all of the cars. Of course, we all took advantage of the situation to have some fun with a snowball fight, which even continued into the vehicle bays. We pelted each other with snowballs and even rubbed a few in each other’s faces. That was a successful start to a day’s work!
How do you envisage your future after completing the apprenticeship? Master school, workshop management, world domination...?
I’m currently in my second training year out of three and a half. Once I’ve finished the apprenticeship, I’d like to stay here in the company because the tasks are so varied. The company is also going to expand in the near feature, so new recruits will be required. I’d be in a good position to provide support then. I’m also working on getting my driver’s license on the side.
What tips would you give budding female mechanics, electricians and automotive engineers to help them to embark on a career like this?
You definitely shouldn’t let yourself feel intimidated by male colleagues. They are always happy to help if you have a question. Cheeky comments are best ignored unless you’re tough enough to fire off a witty retort. That will usually leave them speechless! At any rate, you shouldn’t take everything too seriously. That way, work can actually turn out to be a lot of fun. At Herth+Buss, too, interested girls can get a taste of typical "men's jobs" every year, take a look!