The struggle to break into a male-dominated world: Cork woman tells how she loves being a greasy mechanic

The struggle to break into a male-dominated world: Cork woman tells how she loves being a greasy mechanic
Aoife Murray, apprentice technician at Auto EXpress, City North Business Park, Dublin Hill, Cork, carrying out a diagnostic check on a car.Picture Denis Minihane.

ONE of the few female mechanics in Ireland has voiced her frustration at the lack of opportunities for women in the male-dominated industry after being repeatedly turned down for apprenticeships.

Aoife Murray from Donoughmore in Cork said she experienced a number of setbacks before finally earning her position as a mechanic at Auto Express, Dublin Hill.

She recalled being met with a list of excuses when approaching garages about apprenticeships.

“One company told me they wouldn’t be able to take me on because they didn’t have a female toilet,” the 20-year-old said. “I just kept my mouth shut and walked away. Another said that I might have trouble defending myself,” she said.

The encounters left Aoife baffled.

“This surprised me as I thought that, it being the 21st century, people were more respectful,” she said.

Aoife initially feared her hopes had been dashed.

“I finished school almost three years ago. I had been working on cars since the age of 14. Being a mechanic is all I’ve ever wanted.

Aoife Murray, apprentice technician at Auto EXpress, City North Business Park, Dublin Hill, Cork, Picture Denis Minihane.
Aoife Murray, apprentice technician at Auto EXpress, City North Business Park, Dublin Hill, Cork, Picture Denis Minihane.

“Any of the main dealers I initially dealt with didn’t want to give me a chance because of all the red tape.

“I knew that if none of the big garages wanted to take me on I stood little chance of getting anything.”

After an unsuccessful period of job-hunting Aoife eventually found her dream job with Auto Express. “I had almost given up, but my brother Patrick, who got me into cars in the first place, convinced me to keep going. He taught me everything I know. I love Auto Express. My favourite is the big jobs like working on clutches and gear-boxes.”

Aoife said that female mechanics are still greeted with astonishment from customers.

“Lots of people ringing up will ask to speak to ‘one of the mechanics’,” she said of her job at Auto Express.

“One of the things I love about my job is when a customer with a really old-fashioned attitude comes in who initially underestimates me. When I have the job done on the car they usually end up taking it all back.”

Aoife said she attracts a number of stares during the course of her working day.

“When you’re a female mechanic you can’t be sensitive,” she said.

“If I go out to get lunch I’ll be covered in dirt from work. When it’s a guy people automatically realise he’s a mechanic. However, with me, they’re normally wondering where I’m coming from. I get a lot of stares.”

Aoife Murray, apprentice technician at Auto EXpress, City North Business Park, Dublin Hill, Cork, pictured with William O'Donovan (left) and John Buckley, co-owners.Picture Denis Minihane.
Aoife Murray, apprentice technician at Auto EXpress, City North Business Park, Dublin Hill, Cork, pictured with William O'Donovan (left) and John Buckley, co-owners.Picture Denis Minihane.

Aoife enjoys ditching her work uniform in favour of something a little more feminine. “My friends are all really into hair and make-up.

“When the weekend comes I’m the biggest ‘girly girl’ you’ll meet. I’ll spend my whole Saturday just getting ready for a night out.

“Given that I’m covered in oil for most of the week I love to get dressed up. A lot of guys will come up to me when I’m out saying that they know me from being a mechanic. We usually end up talking about cars”

Co-owner of Auto Express, William O’Donovan, praised Aoife for her talent and work ethic.

“We took her on for a two-week trial but after just a few hours we knew she was right for the position. It’s a very physical job and while Aoife might be petite she packs a heavy punch.”

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