The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

The Channels

The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

The Channels

The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

The Channels

Female students in auto program hope for a shift in representation

Desiree Erdmann
Anna Grace Butler works on taking apart the transmission and putting it back together on Feb. 22 during the automotive lab in the MacDougall Administration Building at City College in Santa Barbara, Calif. “I love this place, it’s fixed a lot of my cars,” said Butler, who has been a part of the Automotive department since she was 16 during middle college.

Jennifer Oseguera is used to being the only woman in the room.

She was part of the Automotive Services and Technology program at City College for two years, and part of her high school’s program for four.

“Mostly in high school but even at SBCC I’ve had a couple guys come up to me and question if I knew what I was doing,” she said. “They try to make it seem like it’s a joke.”

In 2020, women made up 9% of the total employees in the automotive repair industry. The program at City College had four female students enrolled last semester and one female instructor, Brittanye Muschamp.

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“Having her as an instructor for my first classes was really nice,” said Anna Grace Butler, who started in the program last school year as a dual-enrollment student at 16.

Both women have had to learn to stand their ground in class. They said there’s more pressure on them to do well and prove they can do the work.

Oseguera said she sometimes got pushed aside when working in groups.

“I sometimes would get stuck with paperwork instead of actually working on the cars,” she said.

Her mom had some reservations when Oseguera first joined her high school’s automotive program.

“It was kind of a battle…she doesn’t want me to work on cars but my brothers kind of encouraged it,” she said.

Being interested in cars is second-nature to her because she grew up on a ranch in Santa Ynez seeing her dad and two brothers work on cars.

“I’m the youngest one and I’m the only girl…whatever my brothers liked I felt like I wanted to like too,” she said.

Butler enjoys the challenge of putting an engine back together.

“I’ve always been fascinated by puzzles,” she said. “Rebuilding engines is so much like a puzzle.”

Butler has been working at a local alignment shop for a few months and has already experienced uncomfortable situations as a woman in the industry.

“I had an incident with a co-worker who kept making comments about my body,” she said.

Both students said they want to see more women in the industry.

“There’s only been one female mechanic that I’ve seen come into my shop,” Butler said.

Female role models are scarce. Jessi Combs, professional racer, was one of the first people that Oseguera said she saw herself in.

“Her encouraging other women to go into the industry is what inspires me too,” she said.

Being one of the few women in this field means they can be an inviting presence to other women who are interested in cars or just don’t want to be tricked into getting unnecessary services on their vehicles.

“My friends are always calling me asking me about their cars,” Butler said. “Being a woman walking into a shop can be intimidating.”

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