Where Are the Women in Parking?
I might never have considered parking a sexist industry if I had not had such a strong and spontaneous reaction to the September 2010 cover of Parking Today. Two women under the headline: “Beth Tindel and Faye Silverman Run Parking at Kennesaw State.”
I actually cheered, and then realized I was cheering because I couldn’t remember the last time I’d seen women on the cover. Then in October, the magazine reported that the National Parking Association had named Christine Banning its new president. Go, Christine! Another woman in a position of prominence in parking.
Before anybody gets offended and cancels their subscription, I have to clarify. I don’t think the parking industry is sexist, because I am sure, as a group, it does not hate or reject women. What I mean is I have to consider the possibility, because the industry does not seem to have many female members.
But that’s not to say the world of parking should be recruiting women just to be politically correct.
I believe merit, skill, ability and performance to be the main requirements for employment, and it’s OK with me if there are more men than women in construction, the military, security and other professions that require serious heavy lifting. I might be a feminist, but I’m not the kind who can’t acknowledge the value in traditional gender roles nor admit there are different strengths and weaknesses inherent in each sex.
There are jobs you want done by a woman and jobs you want done by a man, and the reasons might be arbitrary and unpopular, but deep down we all feel more comfortable with certain stereotypes, whether it’s OK to admit it or not.
My 5-year-old was certain, without any input from me, that a female kindergarten teacher was within her comfort zone and that a male kindergarten teacher would be terrifying. She would go to school only if her teacher were female, she told me. Luckily for us, she got a female teacher and an 80-year-old one to boot – the absolute perfect kindergarten teacher – a woman with a kind heart and nerves of steel.
On the flip side, I thought a female obstetrician was a great idea, because naturally she would be more sympathetic to my experience. I had two different female obstetricians for the birth of my two children – both delivered by emergency caesarean. I don’t think a male obstetrician would have said, “If I were you, I’d cut that baby out of myself,” the way Dr. Psychopath did, or told me not to cry as Dr. Heartless did. So even though choosing a female OB seemed like a no-brainer, it is not something I recommend.
I do have a female pediatrician and a female family practitioner who are very kind – even in emergencies. My dentist is male, my accountant is female, the contractor working on my bathroom is male, my mechanic is male and my hairdresser is also male. But I honestly try not to focus on gender – just skill.
That said, why are there fewer women than men in parking? Are the numbers equal but the media coverage unequal? Is the industry really dominated by males? Is it because cars are stereotypically part of the male domain and driving is a stereotypically masculine skill?
When I do see women in parking, they are doing only certain jobs. On the business end, there are some female executives, of course. Out on the pavement, I have never seen a female valet. I’ve met plenty of female booth attendants and cannot discount the iconic meter maid.
The parking industry is an insulated one. I can understand how the tradition of masculine emphasis could go unchallenged for many more years because the entire industry operates slightly under the radar of social trends.
Parking is part of our infrastructure, something that most people do not scrutinize the way they do other industries. We all take it entirely for granted.
I don’t think I am an expert on the parking industry or that I know for sure how women fit in. The discrepancy in number is just something I have observed as an outsider. Seeing those women on the PT cover and reading about the NPA’s new president made me think the parking industry is like many others – evolving in a positive direction.
Regardless of gender, or any other defining characteristic, there are many people with the intelligence and talent to make a contribution. It’s good to see the parking industry put that position in practice.
Melissa Bean Sterzick is an Amateur Parker and PT’s proofreader. She can be reached at Melissa@parkingtoday.com.
A Similar View …
Editor: We asked Barbara Chance, a longtime parking and transportation consultant, to comment on this column. Her response:
I can’t find much to argue about with it. But it’s good to remember that Rita Molnar was President of the IPI long, long ago. And the IPI has had several female presidents.
When I first went to industry conventions, I can remember only about three of us who were women professionals.
The areas where I really see a lot of women are in universities. They have risen to high positions there more than in any other area. Think about Sarah Blouch at Ohio State, Becca White at Virginia, Theta Dempsey at Oklahoma (recently retired) – they are among the best in the business. There are some women in municipal positions, but I think more in universities.
If you think that guys generally don’t hear about parking as a profession, double that perception for women. Many of the professional jobs in parking are rather “hidden,” compared with the parking enforcement officers, garage attendants, etc. Those “hidden” jobs are often filled by women, but they fell into them just like most of us fell into parking.
Now that there is so much more IT, finance and development in parking, maybe that will attract more women. All I can tell you is that sometimes it is pretty lonely!
Barbara Chance, President and CEO of Chance Management Advisors, Inc., can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org