While careers in STEM fields have made a great deal of progress in dismantling the male-dominated image of the doctor, or the scientist, or the engineer, the trucking industry may still have a lot of work to do when it comes to reframing the image of the modern technician.
There are more women technicians working on diesel trucks than ever before, but that percentage is still just under 4%, according to the Women In Trucking Association's 2022 WIT Index. Women technicians remain the outlier. Does the ratio of men and women in the shop need to be equal across the country to effectively change the male-dominated image of technicians? At what point would that ratio ever even out? Some say the percentage of women in the shop may never grow substantially if young girls don’t see themselves represented in the career in the first place.
That’s where Missy Albin comes in. She’s probably the exact opposite of what most people imagine when they think of a technician with a master truck and bus certification: a young mother who’s a part-time model.
That’s exactly why Albin, dubbed the DieselGirl online, has made it her mission to normalize women in the shop, and hopefully change how people are “wired to perceive the career.” To do this, she’s started posting more on social media, including sharing advice and high-speed time lapses of her working through production builds, diagnostics and electrical repair on a YouTube channel and TikTok account. She’s also an active user on LinkedIn, Instagram and Facebook.
“The image of a diesel mechanic has been misconstrued over the years. Any female choosing this industry will be breaking traditions of ‘the woman's role’ that society has decided for us and instilled in us over the decades,” Albin says. “I have been wrapping my head around the fact that we (in the diesel industry) are still in a primitive age for female mechanics. I believe that if there were more advocates for females, there would be more women interested in being a part of our industry.”
Not Even Barbie Herself
Not even Barbie, who’s has more than 150 careers and occupations, including aircraft engineer, train conductor, construction worker and chief sustainability officer, has ever been a technician.
The lack of representation creates invisible barriers for women who would excel in a technician role but aren’t encouraged to try.
“I was raised to be anything I wanted to be, but when it came to expressing my interest and desire to be a mechanic my dreams were crushed,” she says. “My parents had different expectations for me. I was a varsity cheerleader and a high school graduate that was forced to attend college for graphic design. I have never fit the stereotype of the diesel mechanic, but my brain, heart and soul did.”
Despite a lack of encouragement from her family and peers at the time, Albin made her way (or “broke in,” as she would say) to the industry in 2004.
- She started with WRJ Trucking and Jordan Equipment in Dracut, Massachusetts, performing preventive maintenance and general repairs while developing a maintenance program for a large fleet.
- In 2009, she began her career with Navistar at International IC Bus dealership Dattco Sales and Service.
- By 2012 she had earned her Master Bus Certification.
- Since 2016, she’s been on the truck side at Taylor & Lloyd in Bedford, Massachusetts.
- By 2017, she earned her Master Truck Certification, and Master of Navistar Product — while spending 39 weeks pregnant in the shop.
She was recognized by International Trucks as "one of the best technicians in the network" during Technician Appreciation Week 2020, and was selected to represent International Trucks’ Tech EmPowerment recruitment program as a Female Technician Ambassador. She is also a part of a new advisory team for the first women’s group for International Trucks dealerships, called Women In Navistar Dealerships (WINDS).
In 2022, she was part of a keynote panel at the ASE Training Conference discussing the challenges women technicians face and possible solutions to increase the number of women training to be technicians.
Starting from Scratch
Before she made a name for herself in the industry, Albin dealth with self-doubt.
“I had the passion and enthusiasm, with little experience, no support, nor guidance,” she says. “I felt like it was me against the world.”
While she was still in college for graphic design, chasing someone else’s dream, she knew she needed a change.
“I knew what my soul needed in life. I had to take charge,” she recalls. At the end of that semester, she quit college to chase her passion.
While her path has allowed her to successfully break into the industry and stake her claim, navigating the industry with little support while not fitting into the mold has been challenging.
“The way I look, and my enthusiasm, gave people the false impression that I was not fit for this industry," Albin says. “I had to work harder to prove that I am a mechanic and I do belong in the shop. Especially when I was pregnant and carried for 39 weeks.”
That’s why Albin uses her platforms to share her work, as well as her modeling images, to inspire, educate and normalize women technicians. And she hopes efforts like hers will help break stereotypes of what a technician “should be” faster.