He’s an industry disruptor!
Patrice Banks is revolutionizing the automotive industry with his company, Girls Auto Clinic. It’s a one-stop-shop where customers can get their car repaired, get a quality education on what it needs, and get a manicure while they wait. Eight years ago, Banks was inspired to create change in the auto industry after facing years of uncertainty and disrespect for her car. She called herself an “automatic airhead” with no idea how cars work.
One day, she made a joke on social media that confirmed her belief that the automotive world was not a safe space for women.
“My car needs an oil change, but I’m going to get a manicure instead,” she wrote on her social media, prompting attacks from men. They commented that she would collapse on the side of the road and said other derogatory things about women and cars. However, the women came to her defense, reminding her that if she broke down, at least she would look good with her hands and feet done.
At that time, she decided to find a female mechanic, but she couldn’t find anyone. The engineer chose to resume studies in 2012 for automotive technology. Now her vision is to educate and empower women about cars.
“Every woman who drives a car should have a good education about the operation and maintenance of her car, a mechanic she trusts, and she should have confidence in her car-buying choices,” Banks said in his TED Talk. “I want women to own their car, and to own it is to know it.”
Girls Auto Clinic opened in 2017 and provides women with the technical skills they need and the peace of mind they need to get their cars serviced. Banks also help women buy cars. That same year, Banks published the Girls Auto Clinic Glove Box Guide, a book that educated and encouraged women about what was going on under the hood of their car. She said her clients often felt “misunderstood, mistreated, disrespected” when looking for a car, so she began consulting with women in buying new and used cars.
“Girls Auto Clinic is committed to creating a unique, comfortable, and confident auto repair experience for women. We opened our doors in January 2017 to provide the Philadelphia area with reliable, honest, and educational auto repair. We offer a full auto repair service, female mechanics and, icing on the cake, manicures and pedicures while you wait at the Clutch Lounge and Beauty Bar!”
Ladies, come to the Girls Auto Clinic! We won’t put you to shame, we teach you to love your car and take care of it. Plus, do your nails while you wait!! 💋 https://t.co/tjSYMlpbk1
— Girls Auto Clinic (@girlsautoclinic) August 29, 2021
At Girls Auto Clinic, 75% of clients and the majority of workers are women. Their paid services include free monthly workshops for the public, where anyone can park their car in the garage and learn how to check and maintain everything on their own, from oil to brakes to tires. Banks teaches in grease-stained red 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 empowering women is on display every day at work.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, less than 10% of auto mechanics are women; Bank employees can finally work in a place where they are wanted and respected. In an interview with Time Magazine, one of Banks’ mechanics, Valerie Jedwabny, described inappropriate comments and touching from co-workers when she worked in most auto shops. At Girls Auto Clinic, everything has changed.
And customers, who have unfortunately experienced similar inappropriate or rude interactions at predominantly male mechanics, breathe 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 the Bank’s store.
“I don’t know anything about cars, so usually when I go there I feel a bit intimidated by whatever they’re going to tell me the car needs,” Erica Ezold told reporters. “It’s going to be a different experience.”
Another customer said she decided to stay in the shop because she felt comfortable and would ask Banks for help anyway.
“I was going somewhere in the neighborhood, and the guy was still listening to Trump’s radio,” Dominique Montgomery said.
She added that she once tried another mechanic when an old car broke down too far from the Girls Auto Clinic, but ended up texting the 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 from a mechanic went viral last August, social media cheered her on, with some hoping she’ll come to their city (or country) next.
Banks disrupts this male-dominated realm and creates 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