Celebrating women in trades: Apprentice Auto-mechanic Toddi Todarello

Celebrating women in trades: Apprentice Auto-mechanic Toddi Todarello
10 February 2020    Donnay Torr    0 comments
“What do chicks know about cars?” “Women can’t be tradies.” “Construction is a man’s job.” Says who, huh? To celebrate International Woman’s day, Skillsroad spoke to three young people who are making their own way in skilled industries, regardless of the challenges they might face. They’re living examples of this year’s Women’s Day motto: “An equal world is an enabled world” – enabled to do better, grow healthier and happier, and achieve more.

Discover more women in work:


“I’ve always loved cars”

Meet Toddi Todarello, 27, 2nd year apprentice at Frank’s Pitstop Automotive.

“I have always found it important to celebrate International Women’s Day and I am personally very proud to be carving out a small place in a traditionally male industry. I grew up identifying as female, however, now as an adult I identify as non-binary. I feel that modern conceptualisations of International Woman’s Day often include non-binary and transgender folks under their umbrella, and I’m very happy to contribute to extending that definition.”

What is a typical day on the job like?

There never really is a typical day at work at Frank’s. I guess I would do a couple of major services during the day, but we work on a lot of classic cars, which can involve anything from reconditioning carburettors, minor interior work or dropping an engine.

Apprentice-auto-mechanic-Toddi-Todarello in action
Toddi Todarello getting hands on at work.

You work with some pretty spectacular cars! Do you have any favourites, or notorious ones that give you a headache to work on?

I do get to work on some pretty amazing cars. At Frank’s Pitstop we work on mainly Italian cars and also a lot of old cars come through the workshop. Anything from Fiats to Ferraris, so you can imagine it’s difficult to narrow down. I think some of my favourites are also some of the biggest headaches. Notably working on my first Ferrari (Dino) 308 gt4 was pretty special and I love working on old Fiats.

What inspired you to choose this career?

I’ve always loved cars, mainly classics. I’m half Italian and I’ve grown up around my dad’s Fiats and Lancias my whole life. I’ve only driven classic cars since getting my license, I have always wanted to be able to restore and work on my cars.

What would you say are the benefits of doing an apprenticeship?

I find it challenging in a way I hadn’t previously felt in other jobs, which has been really positive for me. It’s nice to be able to be learning something where you can see the practical job application as I’m working.

What do you enjoy most about the work that you do?

I think versatility in the work that I do, I’m never stuck doing the same thing on the same cars every day.

Have you ever encountered stereotypes about being a “woman” working in the automotive industry? If yes, how do you deal with weird or old-fashioned attitudes?

I feel as though the stereotypes that people have are highly layered. There is often quite a bit of shock and novelty about the fact that I am not a man in this industry. I personally identify as non-binary, however as I was brought up as a woman I am often aware of sexist comments or assumptions about my abilities.

I think that because I’m not feminine, I get drawn into the ‘boys club’ and it is sometimes assumed that I will find sexist jokes funny – which can be quite awkward at times.

However, due to the fact that I present more androgynously, I am often constantly mis-gendered and people at times don’t know how to relate to me as a result of that. 
When this arises, I have found having conversations with my employers and co-workers to be constructive.  At times these are hard conversations to have, when you come from quite a different experience and perspective from a lot of people in the industry. However, the outcome from having these difficult conversations has made me feel more comfortable and supported in my work environment.

How do you keep going when things get really tough on the job?

This job can both physically and mentally demanding, working in high pressure and harsh environments. In the physical sense, I have learnt how to prioritise resting and looking after myself when I’ve had gruelling days. However, I have also learnt to trust my own physical strength and give everything a go – you can always ask for help if you need it.

Day to day, I use a lot humour and try to remain positive in stressful situations. My go to in dealing with passionate old Italian men is to jokingly suggest group mindfulness meditations to diffuse the tension – I’m sure they’ll take it up any day now. 

What have you learned about yourself while doing an apprenticeship in this industry?

I have a lot more determination and mental strength than I realised. I feel that I have a lot to prove, which has made me interested and motivated to do well. Finding that inner motivation has been positive in my life.

What do you think are your unique skills that make you good at what you do?

I think my age going into this apprenticeship has been really beneficial, allowing me to learn quickly, be patient and communicate effectively.

Main image Tory Bishop on Unsplash. 
Images of Toddi Todarello supplied.

Are you a woman working in a trade or skilled industry? Share your story and experiences with us at #JobDiaries! Find out more below.


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