Professional Carwashing & Detailing

A difference in the details

October 11, 2010

Traditionally, in the auto detail business, men have been the owners and the workers. However, as more and more women entered the workforce over the past 20 years, women have begun to emerge as strong players in the detail industry.

Women have typically shied away from this male-dominated, labor-intensive business for a number of reasons, including the male attitude of “this is not women’s work.”

The social aspect
However, as these gender barriers begin to topple, and we find women in every field that was traditionally a man’s domain, we see more and more women entering the detail business as owners, managers and detailers.

Women are able to use the advantages of being a woman in this traditional man’s world of auto detailing. Here are some of the advantages for women in detailing:

  • Over 50 percent of today’s drivers are women;
  • Women purchase more than 58 percent of automotive services;
  • In most cases a female customer is more comfortable dealing with a woman vs. a man; and
  • It has been said that women are much more detail-oriented.

The perception is that women are more careful and less likely to damage a vehicle. Valid or not, this is how society views a more delicate woman. Women feel safer and less threatened by dealing with another woman especially in the automotive service business where they often admit feeling talked down to and taken advantage of by men.

As mentioned, many of these advantages are nothing more than perceptions on the part of the customer. But, a woman owner or employee can use this as a marketing tool.

She can promote her business as a woman-owned and/or operated detail business, and it can give her a competitive edge.

Therefore, whether the customer is a man or woman, try to make sure they get the same treatment as they might expect from a woman-owned company.

Common misconceptions
Some feel that if women-run detail businesses had a real advantage there would be more women owners and workers than there are.

Let’s explore some of the common theories regarding women detailers:

“Women are more detail-oriented.”
If women are really more detail-oriented than men, you would assume that a woman’s car would be extremely clean. But detailers know better, and some of the dirtiest cars they work on belong to women.

If female detailers are more detail-oriented, so what? This quality is not necessarily the key to a profitable and successful detail business.

That has to do with proven operating equipment, good marketing, and productivity — not necessarily areas where a woman has a supposed advantage.

“Women will take the time to remove every speck of dirt.”
It has been reported that the male brain is more adept in "visual spatial functions" than the female brain. This visual spatial male advantage also means better map-reading skills, adding to another factor in superior productivity and profitability.

“Women customers feel more comfortable dealing with another woman.”
No question, women do feel more comfortable dealing with another female, but this does not appear to be a big factor in productivity and profitableness, judging by the very small number of female detail business owners and techs in this industry.

Male detailers
Traditionally-speaking, women are better nurturers. Men, however, are traditionally suited for hard work as a provider for the family.

Men are more aggressive sales people and generally push harder to achieve growth and success.

This can be confirmed by looking at how few, if any, of the 100 largest detail companies in the US are run by women. Men can work longer hours of physical labor.

Think about the male detailers you know who are mechanical, do you know any female detailers who are as mechanically inclined?

You can say men are not as good at communicating as women, and although at first glance this might appear to be a disadvantage, experience shows that female detailers would complete fewer jobs per day than males, hardly a formula for success.

Men also have better job average than women; men are better able to negotiate with suppliers and employees.

Men are better suited to deal with unpleasant situations, such as aggravated male customers. Many women can be overwhelmed by pushy, abrasive male customers.

Female detailers

  • Reliability: Are men really more reliable workers than women?

    Many detail business owners like women because they are more consistent and reliable workers than men. Male detailers always seem to be looking for the next best thing, job-hopping all the time.

  • Aggressiveness: Men are more aggressive.

    That’s sometimes true —in fact so aggressive that they sometimes push too hard and lose the sale. It is better to be assertive without being aggressive to get better results.

  • Technical: Are men simply better detailers?

    With advances in technology, air tools, extractors, vapor steamers, not to mention clear-coat paint finishes the work is not as physical as it used to be.

  • Mechanical: Can men better handle mechanical problems?

    If you are a detailer, why not hire experts to service your equipment rather than just any male who thinks he knows what’s he’s doing.

Confidence in women
Female customers have become more accustomed to taking the advice of male detailers. But, we no longer live in the Dark Ages; women do not need a man to tell them what to do.

Perhaps some customers have not experienced a woman detail business owner, but it is reported that women trust women more when it comes to auto service.

Look at the number of female service owners and women in car sales in dealerships. Female customers will confide in another woman, sharing stories that they would never tell a man.

You decide who is better — males or females. But don’t contact me for advice; I was blessed with four daughters, so I can’t comment.

R.L."Bud" Abraham is president of Detail Plus Car Appearance Systems, Portland, OR. Bud is a 36 year veteran of the carwash and detail industries and currently serves on the International Carwash Association Board of Directors. He can be contacted at