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Female engineer empowers, educates women in auto repair

Female engineer empowers, educates women in auto repair
Issue Time:2015-06-26

Patrice Banks knows what she's doing under the hood.

She shares that knowledge -- for free -- at monthly clinics geared toward women.

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Patrice Banks shares her knowledge of auto mechanics with Girls Auto Clinic attendees

"There are certain things that every person needs to know about their car, and one of them is the year, make and model," Banks told the attendees.

But it hasn't always been that way for Banks, who was anything but a gear-head, reports CBS News correspondent Michelle Miller.

"I feared the auto mechanic. I waited until the last minute to do repairs. I even put a Facebook status up six years ago that said, 'My car really needs an oil change, but I'm going to get a mani-pedi instead.' And I did," Banks said.

In fact, she used to call herself an "auto airhead." Strange, because she's no airhead at all. Banks is also a materials engineer and used to work at chemicals giant DuPont.

"I think that it's almost the culture ingrained that women don't understand cars," Banks said. "We're taught very young - 'That's for guys you're not going to get it. Let a man handle it.'"

Tired of feeling ripped off when she took her car to the mechanic, she went back to school, studied to be an auto tech and worked for free on weekends at a repair shop - a rarity because the car repair world is dominated by men. Women make up less than 2 percent of automotive service technicians and mechanics in the U.S.

"That just gave me the idea that ... I'm going to teach women and I started building this vision for this company that was going to education and empower women through their cars," Banks said.

That vision became Girls Auto Clinic.

"Women will take care of a $300 bag better then they take care of a $25,000 car, you know, and that's a shame," Banks said.

Francine Edwards had always relied on her husband to take care of the car. She took the class so she could save some money.

"In the past, every upsale, like, 'You need a new filter, and while we're in there, we're going to need to change this because if we have to go back it's going to be another $75 service charge, so I'd be like, 'Oh, go ahead, okay,'" Edwards said.

Banks aims to take the intimidation factor out of auto repair.

"What happens when you're sick, and your nose is clogged? You can't breathe, right? It's really hard to breathe, you don't feel good. When your air filter is clogged and dirty, your engine can't breathe," Banks told Girls Auto Clinic attendees.

She wants to change the way women approach mechanics and the way mechanics approach women.

Why just women?

"It's not just women. I tell people all the time, I cater to women. I love men, but I cater to women because I'm a woman, I know what it feels like, the stereotype with women," Banks said.

The point is to feel good about your car, Banks said.

"Change the relationship you have with it. You know, the first time I was able to change my light bulbs I felt so good," Banks said. "You know, it was like, 'I am woman, hear me roar. Patrice: 1, Car: 0' kind of a thing. I felt like I won. I didn't feel defeated by it anymore."

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