Don’t tell Shawna Jordan that she can’t do a man’s job because she’s always ready to prove you wrong. When 33-year-old Shawna began her career as a mechanic, she was often told by men that she was in the wrong place doing the wrong job. As though it happened just yesterday, she easily recalls telling her critics that she was very much in the right place, doing what she wanted to do. Added to that, she assured them she was going nowhere.
She was right because, 14 years later, Shawna is still in the field. Besides, she has accumulated a considerable amount of experience working at different levels. Currently, she works in the workshop at Courtesy Garage. Shawna is the type of woman who welcomes a challenge, especially whenever she is told she cannot get something done.
It inspires her to work overtime and press the gas even harder to prove the detractors wrong. “The mere fact that you are telling me I shouldn’t be doing it and shouldn’t be here makes me want to do it even more (and) feel good knowing that I can do the same thing that men claim women can’t do,” she said during an interview with Barbados TODAY at Courtesy, exuding great passion about her job. “At first, I was not accepted by the men I worked with. Men used to react strange to a woman doing the same work that they are doing,” she added.
She loves the challenges of the mechanics trade, along with the grease, but most of all leaving customers satisfied that their vehicle no longer has what sometimes may appear to be an unsolvable problem. Shawna learnt mechanics through enrollment in the Government-sponsored Skills Training Programme. There were two other females in her class at that time.
She said grasping the basics of mechanics such as how a vehicle’s brakes work, how the steering wheel should feel, ensuring the vehicle has in sufficient oil and water, to the complicated stuff like how to solve transmission and gearbox issues came easy to her. She initially put what she learnt into practice when she landed her first job at C.O Williams where she was a member of the technical team responsible for the maintenance of the construction firm’s heavy-duty machinery. However, after being laid off last year, Shawna was forced to seek out new employment and her application to Courtesy was successful.
Though she had worked on smaller vehicles in her own space at home, the garage was a totally new setting and experience for Shawna. “At C.O Williams, we mostly used to deal with construction equipment. Here we are dealing with cars and jeeps etc. So right now I am getting the experience dealing with vehicles. “It is basically the same concept of dealing with brakes and steering, but I had to try to get adjusted to these smaller vehicles,” she explained.
The mechanic said the guys in the workshop at Courtesy where she has been working for just a few months, have been supportive in helping her settle into the new job. “She is we ‘lil’ brother. But don’t be fooled, she’s tough,” one of Shawna’s co-workers remarked jokingly. Shawna has successfully managed over the years to cope with the stares and questions fired at her by those who are amazed that she chose this field of work, but she said to this day “it happens all the time” still.
In fact, she has arrived at a mature acceptance that it will continue to happen because she is a woman working in what is still obviously considered a man’s world.
“People ask ‘why you doing that job?’ But I do what I like to please me. I enjoy what I do 100 per cent. Honestly, the stigma was a bit challenging and stressful for me at first. “I use to be talking to myself all the time saying ‘you can get it done.’ The best feeling is doing it and then them [men] saying ‘oh you got it done,” said the former Lodge School student. Shawna readily admits looking forward to donning her blue overalls, gloves and head scarf and holding her own among the men in the workshop.
However, once work is over and she changes her attire, her feminine side immediately stands out. So much so that unless you really know her, it is a tough job correctly guessing that she is a mechanic. “Guys would tell me you look so different when you change your work clothes but, to me, it is just clothes. When guys in here change their clothes, they look different too, so I don’t see why I shouldn’t look different,” she said. Shawna said there were two people in this world that she knew genuinely accepted her career choice: her nine-year-old twin sons Brishawn and Shabrian who are proud their mummy works with cars.
“They have the best of two worlds because their father is a truck driver. Everybody is bragging that mummy is a mechanic and daddy is a truck driver. When I am home working, I have to beg them to come from under the car. “I have to tell them put down my tools and go inside. They make me work extra hard when I am home,” said the proud mother who, not surprisingly given her C.O. Williams background, is capable of driving almost any type of heavy-duty equipment.