Women Techs Rock: Shop owner Bethaney Bowman’s advice for women looking to get their start
This technician spotlight is published as part of TechForce Foundation’s diversity initiatives. Help us find other women technicians to highlight in Women Techs Rock. Get started at TechForce.org/WomenTechStories
Technician: Bethaney Bowman
Employer: Owner, Gear Jammers
Who is Bethaney Bowman?
Bethaney’s legacy as a leader in the automotive industry started from an early age, with a role model at home. Her own mother was the first woman to graduate from Edison Tech School in upstate New York, setting an example for Bethaney that she could do whatever she set her mind to, even if she had to be the first woman to do it.
Like so many other car enthusiasts of the time, Bethaney’s parents were avid drag racers, and made sure they passed this down to Bethaney. Bethaney and her father built her very own junior dragster from scratch at the young age of 8, and she continued to compete in it for years. This experience of tinkering with her dad sowed the seeds that she would build a career with.
In the 7th grade, Bethaney seized the opportunity to take a small engines class, where she learned an important life lesson. The class required students to break out into pairs, but as a young woman in a male-dominated class, Bethaney ended up working alone. She would often endure bullying for this, even getting spit on while walking to class. Bethaney pushed on despite this, continuing through small engines and electronics classes to make the jump into automotive.
When Bethaney was in the 11th grade, she moved with her family and started at a new school. Once again, she was the only woman in the class. The program allowed for ASE and NATEF certifications, and Bethaney seized the opportunity as one of only 5 students in the NATEF program.
In what she describes as the largest impact on her automotive career, Bethaney met an extraordinary automotive instructor, who was able to provide valuable 1-on-1 instruction due to the small class size. Bethaney continues to keep in touch with this instructor, who is still teaching today.
After high school, Bethaney set off for the University of Northern Ohio (UNOH), with the goal to graduate with zero debt. This required Bethaney to keep a grueling schedule, working from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm as a waitress, automotive lube tech, and any other job necessary before attending class from midnight to 6:00 am. Bethaney describes that she survived the ordeal with energy drinks, Oreos, and sheer determination.
Bethaney would even meet her now-husband at UNOH over some friendly competition over who had the better truck. This casual banter would blossom into a once-in-a-lifetime romance for Bethaney. Her husband went down a diesel tech career path, as Bethaney remained focused on the automotive side.
At the start of her career, Bethaney worked for Jiffy Lube and Firestone but quickly decided that the fast turnaround of these organizations was not how she envisioned her career. Bethaney pivoted to dealership work hoping to find stability but would be tripped up by an employer that was struggling to make its sales goals. Always remaining flexible and open to trying new things, Bethaney landed at ProCharger, building the company’s namesake superchargers, giving her valuable experience with a stable schedule and pay.
However, Bethaney would begin to feel the monotony of a traditional 9-5 job, ultimately leaving ProCharger and becoming pregnant with her first child. After a year-long stint as a fitness instructor, Bethaney was drawn back into her automotive passion after the birth of her second child, building high-performance engines for Tristar. Like many can relate, Bethaney and her husband found themselves moving around a lot and decided that it was time to build roots and develop a sustainable long-term plan.
During this process, Bethaney had come to understand that she and her husband had gained enough joint knowledge to start their very own business. Around the birth of their third child, Bethaney and her husband were able to make that dream a reality, starting Gear Jammers as a mobile mechanic business.
Eventually, they would find shop space, servicing diesel over-the-road trucks as well as autos. At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Gear Jammers pivoted back to mobile work, feeling that it was the strongest aspect of their thriving business. This helped free up Bethaney to take up a new challenge–to become a super mom, managing three kids and her busy home life while working within her passion field.
Q: What are some of the challenges of being a female tech that you want to alert others to and start a dialogue for improvement?
A: “Finding a balance in life is always a challenge. You must decide what’s important to you and set your priorities with your own guide in mind. But if you are going to do the job, do it right and do it well.”
Q: Who influences you in your work?
A: “Bogi Lateiner and Faye Hadley from All Girls Garage. They remind me that women can and
should do what they are passionate about.”
Q: What is changing the stigma for women techs?
A: “New technology. The more and more new technology advances to EV/Hybrid and autonomy the less the job becomes a mechanics job and the more it becomes a technician role. You need to know the basics of an engine as the foundation to any of it but for those who are very technical the computer-based work will take over eventually.”
Q: What needs to happen to get more women in this profession?
A: “Women need to see that they can do it. They can tackle this, or anything, and they need to stop listening to others and listen to themselves. If you like doing puzzles, then you will like this because at the end you get a pretty picture–only these start and impact life.”