Under the Hood: Gender Bias in Car Maintenance

Throughout our research into the issues affecting customer experience in the aftersales market, there were a couple of concerns which were brought up more frequently than others. Customers were often exasperated by their lack of automotive literacy and had difficulty trusting rogue mechanics to not take advantage of their knowledge dominance. This is perhaps not all that surprising – everyone has, or knows someone who has, been ripped off by a garage.

 

What was interesting, however, was how these sorts of negative experiences played out differently for the male and female drivers who took part in our focus groups and interviews. It was quite apparent that women often faced a greater number of negative experiences and they felt that these were frequently related to their gender. This inspired us to delve a bit deeper into understanding the female experience of car maintenance.

 

During our research process, we got to hear the stories of several woman drivers about how their gender affected their experiences with their car or at the garage.

 

One interviewee we spoke to told us about how his daughter was made to believe that her car’s tyres needed replacing due to wear. In fact, her tyres still had enough tread depth left to last another six months! It was only when the father intervened over the phone that the mechanic admitted the tyres would be fine to drive on.

 

We also heard the following from a female driver regarding how she feels when visiting a garage: “I sometimes feel slightly intimidated because they always look at you as if you don’t understand how a car works at all – it’s such a male dominated space.” This sentiment was shared by a lot of the women drivers in our interactive sessions. They felt that it was assumed they knew nothing about their cars and felt undermined by this.

 

Even for a couple of our female participants, the expectation that women have very little automotive know-how seemed to be ‘normal’. One lady told us flatly: “As a woman, I know nothing about my car.” Clearly, negative stereotypes surrounding women and cars can be quite engrained.

 

Not only did we hear that customers felt they were treated differently for being female, our own team members experienced the reality of it whilst working on this project. As a team we spent time interviewing mechanics and employees in dealerships. However, in one particular interview, our female team member, who was leading the interview, was frequently ignored, with all conversation directed towards her male colleague - a rather bizarre experience for everyone involved!

  
To gain a quick insight into how widespread these issues are, we surveyed 16 female drivers on the topic and these were the results:

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An overwhelming majority of women felt that their gender affected how they were treated at a garage. We also asked our respondents to describe how they feel when taking their car to the mechanic. The word map below displays the most commonly used adjectives:

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The takeaways from our survey are unambiguous: women have an acutely negative experience at the mechanic, and this is at least partly a result of sexist stereotypes. When taken with the anecdotes we heard from customers, the message is clear to us: women are being let down by the car maintenance industry.

 

This insight inspired us to get creative with our ideas for revolutionising car maintenance. How can we empower women with the knowledge to level the playing field with the garage? How can we incentivise mechanics to offer an unbiased and customer experience focused service? We've come up with some big ideas to try and tackle these issues - Ask Anni and Optic.

Get in touch to find out more via the contact us page.

Oscar Zealley