Although it’s 2019 and many people will claim that gender equality has been achieved, the fact remains that society identifies distinct differences between females and males.
Yet, the reality is that many expectations for the “softer sex” are a construct that doesn’t quite jive with reality. This is evidenced in the automotive and collision repair industry by the constantly increasing membership levels of women-focused organizations, such as the Women’s Industry Network (WIN) and Women in Automotive (WIA), showing just how many women are actively involved in this unconventional career field.
Earlier this year, Jayme Blasiman decided that these women should be highlighted so their contributions and impact to the automotive industry can be recognized – that’s when she founded Femcanic Garage, a podcast featuring interviews with women in the automotive and racing industries. According to Blasiman, “With the Femcanic podcast, I want to give a voice to women in the automotive industry through a medium that hasn’t been explored in a professional way.”
“My hope for Femcanic Garage is that it will inspire women, young ladies, and girls to pursue the wrenching and racing trade on any level they wish. Even if they never get their hands dirty, I want to spark their curiosity and give them full permission to explore the automotive industry without the apprehension of ‘girls don’t do that,’” Blasiman expressed.
Necessity is the mother of intention, and Blasiman’s brainchild was born when she went looking for a podcast to listen to on her daily commute as an alternative to music and audible books. “I thought, ‘I’d really like to hear about women in automotive,’” she recalled. “I searched but couldn’t find much. The only one I found did not impress me because the audio quality wasn’t great and the content wasn’t much better. Since I wanted to listen to a podcast on automotive women and couldn’t find one, I decided to create one myself.”
Inspired by SheCANic Patrice Banks from Girls Auto Clinic in Upper Darby, PA, Blasiman chose the name Femcanic for her podcast because “Fem for females and obviously can, so it means females CAN!”
Blasiman explained, adding, “The name lends itself to feminism and femininity which both have a bad rep. I’m exploring femininity from a new perspective, and I’m thinking about how we can rewrite the perception of what it really is and cultivate a discussion without shutting people down. It’s a large conversation, but I’m hoping to play a small part in it by empowering women.”
“It’s important to me that the Femcanic Garage podcast represents women in a strong, powerful, classy way, showing that they don’t have to demean themselves to draw attention to what they’re doing, to their accomplishments,” Blasiman continued. “You can be feminine – truly embrace your femininity – and still be a badass painter, fabricator or wrencher. Combat boots can be even sexier than heels!”
Blasiman’s love for automotive began when she was a young child whose stepfather worked on cars at an old goat farm across the street. “I remember running over in my little pink outfit to help him clean the car parts when I was maybe six years old. When I was 19, I paid $1,000 for an authentic 1967 Pontiac GTO convertible. It probably should have been crushed, but my stepdad and I restored it. I’ve always been an avid hobbyist.”
Despite her passion for automotive, Blasiman entered a marketing career and then moved into the financial industry where she enjoyed great success as a financial advisor until a former co-worker who had taken a position at Safelite informed Blasiman of an opportunity in their expanding project management office. Blasiman stated, “The opportunity to get into the automotive industry was very, very appealing to me.”
As she started preparing to turn her dream into reality, Blasiman knew she wanted to produce a high-quality product that her guests could proudly share with family and friends. “I want to be professional and be taken seriously,” Blasiman said. She confessed, “I’ve made a ton of mistakes, but I share my errors and challenges along the way too.”
The first Femcanic Garage podcast, released on March 25, 2019, served as an introduction to Blasiman and her new concept.
Since then, she has published 17 podcasts featuring females of various ages, backgrounds and experience levels who share her passion for automotive. Among Blasiman’s podcasts, she’s interviewed a seven-year-old from Hawaii who likes to wrench and an eight-year-old Mopar girl, Ava, who appeared on the cover of Chrysler Power Magazine with NASCAR’s Richard Petty.
Femcanic Garage recently highlighted two barrier-breaking female collision repair professionals. Welder/fabricator Madison Ervin of Kiddy’s Classics talked about some of the challenges she had to overcome to follow her heart’s desires in June, and in July, Connie Manjavinos of Girls Behind the Gun encouraged listeners to follow their dreams: “If you want something in life, the hard truth is you have to step outside of your comfort zone. You’ll always be your worst critic, but that’s a part of growing. Failing has to happen and it’s a hard pill to swallow, but staying persistent and not giving up will get you where you want to be. Stay humble and don’t be an asshole!”
“I know it sounds cliché, but I don’t have a favorite interview,” Blasiman insisted. “They’re all so different and dynamic. One of the most touching episodes was with Julia - it was such a powerful message.”
During the interview, Julia shared how her daughter Juliana loves to work on cars and has restored her GTO with her dad. When Juliana was in pre-K, Julia noticed that her daughter did not want to dress like a girl or play typical girls’ roles during games of make-believe. Julia recounted, “She came home from school one day and said, ‘Mommy, I don’t want to be a little girl anymore because all the things I like to do, girls aren’t allowed to do.’ It broke my heart because we raised her to believe she could do anything she wanted to do and follow her passions, and one of the things she loves is to be outside with her daddy and work on cars …We’re supposed to be moving towards gender equality and yet my [child] is somewhere still internalizing this message, that the things she loves make her somehow wrong.”
Over one-third of Femcanic Garage’s 1,500 Instagram followers are men and according to Blasiman, “The men are some of the most active participants, especially when it comes to bragging about their wrenching or painting wives. Overall, the feedback I’ve received has been very positive and I’ve actually gotten more feedback from supportive men stressing the need for more women in the automotive industry. The men who follow #femcanic are definitely allies.”
Still, the negative connotations surrounding the idea of feminism continue to be difficult to overcome. Blasiman admitted, “I’m actually not 100 percent comfortable saying I’m a feminist. I’m still exploring what that concept means to me and how this podcast factors into it all. I feel like this is an important journey.”
Femcanic Garage is also a journey into how Blasiman views the automotive industry. “Through this podcast, I’m learning that society also defines the automotive industry in a very limited way. Most people think mechanic or painter, but there are so many different ways to get into automotive—glass, interiors, tires, welding … it’s endless. It’s even becoming a STEM field now due to the computers in cars.”
“We often limit ourselves to mechanical work and collision repair—that’s the typical mindset—but you can get to it through so many avenues. There are a lot of options out there,” Blasiman stressed.
For women who are interested in automotive, Blasiman encouraged, “Listen to some podcasts, do a little research, challenge yourself to try some tinkering alone or with a friend. Explore all the options.”
Access Femcanic Garage podcasts at femcanic.com and follow #femcanic and #ImAFemcanic on Instagram.