Repair can be a rather male domain: women make up just 7% of computer repair techs, and only 2% of car repair techs. Lots of our repair heroes are also men, from Bob the Builder to our dads and grandpas. Cultural assumptions make many women reluctant to pick up a screwdriver, as our own Cait and Brittany have discussed. But we know a lot of fixy women, some of whom we’ve featured before: the micro-soldering mom (Jessa Jones-Burdett of iPad Rehab), grandma the fix-it girl (Jodi Spangler of Lakeshore Mac), and the women behind the nomadic repair service Pop-Up Repair (Sandra Goldmark, founder, and workers like Flora Vassar).
Today, we’re highlighting a few more repair-savvy women to prove that girls can fix it, too.
49,000 Fixes Each Year at a Saudi Startup
(Maryam Al-Subaie, Saudi Arabia)
In Riyadh, an unlikely crew runs a wildly successful electronics workshop: led by art school graduate Maryam Al-Subaie, a group of Saudi women have fixed 49,000 devices in the last year. True entrepreneurs, they found a gap in the local market and filled it. “Many women who seek to repair their mobile phones and laptops fear to take them to repair shops run by men,” Maryam told the Saudi Gazette, “because they don’t want to expose private documents and pictures of family members saved in the devices to strangers.” Her skilled team of technicians and electrical engineers was the perfect answer to this problem—repair by women, for women.
Taking the Mystery out of All Things Mechanical
(Leah Bolden and Karen DeVenaro, SeeJaneDrill.com)
Can you set the gap on a spark plug? Laminate a countertop? Install an electrical outlet? Leah and Karen of SeeJaneDrill.com want to teach you how, with videos and step-by-step repair guides that start from the very basics. Leah was a journeyman plasterer for 20 years, and Karen works as an electrical apprenticeship manager. They teamed up to make home repair skills approachable for novices. Originally, they planned to target women but discovered many men also appreciate Leah's "handywoman next door" teaching style. Home repairs, Leah says, are rarely as difficult as people imagine: "The truth is these repairs are so easy—you just need somebody to show you what to do." And it can save you a lot of money. One viewer says a plumber quoted him $2700 to replace two water shutoff valves in his home. After watching a SeeJaneDrill video, he replaced the valves himself for about $20 in parts.
Dare to Repair
(Stephanie Glakas-Tenet and Julie Sussman, DaretoRepair.com)
Whether you’re a born repairer like the chimney-climbing Stephanie or a later convert like Julie, they’ve got a home repair book for you. Dare to Repair: A Do-It-Herself Guide to Fixing (Almost) Anything in the Home and its three themed sequels are national bestsellers aimed at women who want to learn to become handier. “My litmus test was my mother,” says Julie. “If I thought my mother could do it, then I knew we had it.” When her recently widowed mother fixed her frozen pipes by herself, with the help of Dare to Repair, Julie knew she’d done the work she set out to do.
Rosie the Restarter
(Skillsharers with the Restart Project)
The women at The Restart Project’s workshops fix iPhones as a “warm-up exercise”—sounds like our kind of club. The Restart Project is a London-based group aimed at minimizing electronic waste by teaching people repair and maintenance, co-founded by an awesome lady named Janet Gunter. Our friends over there do so many cool things (like repair parties around the world and great TEDx talks), we can’t hope to cover them all. But since 2014, they’ve been hosting regular women’s repair skillsharing workshops.
(Nancy Lo, Hennepin County Fix-It Clinic; Cindy Correll, Repair PDX; and many others)
After hearing about repair parties and repair cafes, Nancy Lo decided she wanted to bring the repair spirit to Hennepin County. She works in waste reduction and recycling with Hennepin County’s Department of Environment and Energy—she once personally diverted 9.7 tons of cardboard. Nancy started organizing monthly Fix-It Clinics, where people learn to fix their own things with the help of volunteers, in September 2012, and to date they have diverted 18,085 pounds of fixed stuff from the waste stream. Cindy Correll has a similar mission in the repair cafés she organizes in Portland, called Repair PDX. She told Star News, “We’ve discovered that many folks have an emotional connection to their stuff. They don’t want to throw things away, but they don’t know how to fix them. The skill of repairing is not going away.” Repair cafés and fix-it clinics are some of the best ways to keep the repair spirit alive.
Know any other cool repair-savvy women? Tell us about them in the comments.