Breaking barriers: Transgender vehicle technician shares her experience of working in the automotive aftermarket

Breaking barriers: Transgender vehicle technician shares her experience of working in the automotive aftermarket

This article was originally published on 2 June 2023

After 20 years of working as a vehicle technician, Kay McNeil is a transgender female and ideally placed to share her thoughts on working as a woman within the aftermarket, and how she has found the process of transitioning while continuing her career.

Transgender Vehicle Technician shares her experience of working in the automotive aftermarket while standing in front of an open car engine bonnet

Reports indicate that LGBTQI+ women are on average the most unsatisfied group when it comes to discussions around pay, progression and the workplace compared to any other sexuality. While this represents the entire UK workforce, the automotive industry is particularly in need of change, given its inherent male-dominated culture. Filling critical skills gaps requires not only attracting more talent but also creating a more inclusive and diverse workforce.


This includes amplifying messages to help spearhead change – as our contract vehicle technician and Ambassador Kay McNeil aims to do. As a transgender woman, Kay is keen to dispel misconceptions and encourage the industry to embrace diversity and inclusivity, with a good dose of humour! Read our interview with her and learn how she's working to drive progress and acceptance.


Kay, when did you join Autotech Recruit and what made you become a contractor?


I have worked within the industry for 20 years, predominantly as a vehicle technician. Around three years ago I wanted to take greater control of my life and that meant taking a role which allowed me to have more flexibility. I had heard about Autotech Recruit a good couple of years before that point and contracting was, at the time, a new concept to me. It took me two years to take the plunge! I think permanent employment can offer a security blanket but contracting has given me a new lease of life and I wish I had done it sooner!


How has contracting enabled you to be more flexible in your approach to work?


I work four days a week at the minute, and this enables me to still be financially secure while letting me spend time with my children and practising with my band.


How have you found the process of transitioning from male to female while working as a vehicle technician?


It’s been interesting! The aftermarket is inherently male-dominated and there are many who are still unsure how to speak to someone like me. This isn’t because they are unkind, they simply haven’t been educated enough and quite frankly don’t always know what to say to me. This lack of understanding can sometimes lead to a negative reaction but, I have to play my part and with this comes a large dose of humour. If a person is hesitant when they first meet me, I inject a witty anecdote into the conversation to break the ice – I call this my 7-second rule! As a contractor, I frequently enter a new working environment, and this works time and time again.


Do you think there are enough women entering the aftermarket?


Not yet, no. I still think there is a way to go and as I transition, I have had a better understanding of the challenges women face when working as a technician. For many years we have talked about the lack of females working as vehicle technicians and MOT testers and how they have less strength to carry out some of the more manual tasks. Through the hormone treatment I have been receiving, I can attest to this. My muscle mass has diminished by 45% so certain tasks are more difficult than they once were, however, it’s all about communication, and being able to speak up when support is needed. That said, the automotive industry is evolving, it’s not all jacks and lifts these days, cars are becoming so technical it’s a case of plugging into a computer to diagnose and resolve issues!


Do you think the industry will become more diverse and inclusive?


Yes, I do, there is a chink of light coming through – and that’s the younger generation who are entering the industry. I have worked with many interns and apprentices and quite frankly, they don’t bat an eyelid when they meet people from all walks of life - diversity and inclusivity are deeply rooted within them.


Have you ever considered leaving the sector during your period of transition?


Several times and, in all honesty, if it wasn’t for Autotech Recruit, I probably would have left years ago. They are fully supportive of me and, while I know many contractors are happy to travel around the country to follow the opportunities, my recruitment consultant, Stuart is extremely amenable and always finds me work close to home.


Last but not least, why did you decide to apply to become an Ambassador for Autotech Recruit?


I wanted to be an Ambassador as I was keen to be a role model for transgender people working within the motor trade.


Although the automotive industry still has a long way to go to become more diverse, we are proud that our contract vehicle technician, Kay, is leading the way. With her witty personality and courage to be herself, Kay is playing her part in creating this culture where everyone feels welcome to be themselves. We are privileged to have her in our network of vehicle technicians and MOT testers.


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