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This female-operated auto shop puts women in the driver’s seat of their own repairs

In our NewsHour Shares moment of the day, Patrice Banks used to get uncomfortable taking her car to the mechanic. But following a successful career as an engineer, she decided to revolutionize the industry with her own take on the classic car shop by catering to the market’s number one customer: women.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Now to our NewsHour Shares, something that caught our eye that may be of interest to you too.

    Patrice Banks used to feel uncomfortable in auto shops. Now she owns one and is on a mission to empower other women in the automotive industry.

    The NewsHour's Julia Griffin has this profile.

  • Julia Griffin:

    Outside Philadelphia, on a typical suburban street corner, sits an auto repair shop that, at first glance, looks like any other, until you notice the employees, the decor, and those red heels.

    So I have to ask, yes, do you always wear the red heels?

  • Patrice Banks:

    Only for you, Julia, only for you, only for PBS.

  • Julia Griffin:

    Patrice Banks is the owner of Girls Auto Clinic, a garage that caters to the automotive industry's number one customer- women.

  • Patrice Banks:

    I created Girls Auto Clinic to educate and empower women through their cars, and so what that means is we offer automotive buying and repair resources, services and products to women.

  • Julia Griffin:

    The business was a longtime coming for a woman who was once a car care novice.

  • Patrice Banks:

    I called myself an auto airhead. And I was. I hated all of my automotive experiences, right? I did put a post on Facebook, my car needs an oil change, but I'm going to go get a mani-pedi instead. And I did.

    The guys were like, this is why women shouldn't drive, right? You're going to be stuck on the side of the road with a blown engine. And my girlfriends were like, at least she will look cute when she's thumbing it for a ride.

  • Julia Griffin:

    But outside of cars, Banks was no airhead. The first in her family to go to college, she was making six figures as a materials engineer at DuPont when a new calling beckoned.

  • Patrice Banks:

    I knew there was millions of women out there that were auto airheads or felt taken advantage of or mistreated by the industry and needed help.

  • Julia Griffin:

    At age 32, Banks enrolled in an automotive technology course at a local community college and was the only woman in her class.

    She also started hosting weekend car care workshops for women, an event that still sells out today, and eventually she quit her job to apprentice at male-dominated garages.

  • Patrice Banks:

    It was rough, this dirty garage with a bunch of men that don't care, cursing, screaming, yelling at me. But, again, I kept telling myself, like, Patrice, you're on a mission here. Right? This is just growth, you're learning. You're not here for these people, right? You're here for women and you're here to learn.

  • Julia Griffin:

    Finally, in January, Banks officially opened Girls Auto Clinic and made those red heels her signature logo.

    And in an industry where only 2 percent of mechanics are female, all of Banks' employees are women.

  • Patrice Banks:

    Our customers are excited to bring their children in to see us working on cars. This is the future, right? We want you to see like, yes, women can do these things.

  • Julia Griffin:

    But Banks also wants to shift the entire repair shop experience beyond just vehicles, with her Clutch beauty salon just next door.

  • Patrice Banks:

    I thought, OK, have this place here where women are going to say, yes, I have got to get my car oil changed, right? I'm going to get my nails done. So to be able to kill two birds with one stone is the cherry on top.

  • Julia Griffin:

    And if starting a business wasn't enough, Banks has also released the Girls Auto Clinic Glove Box Guide.

  • Patrice Banks:

    You're not supposed to put it on your bookshelf. It's not a cover-to-cover read. I want people to be able to use it, to find it helpful.

  • Julia Griffin:

    In the end, Banks says she just wants to give women a leg, or a heel, up in the automotive field.

  • Patrice Banks:

    We're working in it, not just as mechanics, but as salesmen, women selling cars to women, women engineers, women designers. I'm hoping Girls Auto Clinic can create this type of movement for the industry.

  • Julia Griffin:

    Banks plans to expand that movement by franchising Girls Auto Clinic in other cities.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I'm Julia Griffin in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania.

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