Car service queen: Unconventional businesswoman shares her experience

Darya Kamenskaya
“A huge number of men bully me, doubt my professionalism, call me names, don't want to pay, laugh at me, say that a woman's place is in the kitchen." That’s how Darya Kamenskaya, 5-year-owner of a small car service in Moscow, described her everyday duties in a Facebook post that went viral on Russian social media. Russia Beyond talks to Darya about her business.

Tell us about the situations that made you write the post about your work?

The funniest one was when a client came and asked to change the oil in his car; all the mechanics were busy, so I decided to do it myself.

I lifted the car, drained the oil, changed the filter, at that time the owner came in and shouted at me to lower the car immediately. I thought had he forgotten something inside. Once a client left his cat inside the car. I lowered the car.

The client mumbled that he would never let a girl fix his car, got inside and left without any oil in his car! He did not even take his money back.

Another time a mechanic came for a job interview, but when he understood that I’m the head of the car service, he said that he would never work under a woman, and said he thought I was a secretary and that he regretted wasting his time coming to meet me. In fact we had several situations like that. Some men just can't imagine working in a car service under a female boss.

Or sometimes when I come to buy some car body parts, the sellers may consider me stupid and try to sell some really defective parts because I’m a woman, and from their point of view, I see no difference.

In such cases, I make fun till the last moment, pretending I believe what they say, and then I add, “Maybe you could find a less rusty part?”

Why do you think your post got so much support and attention?

I would say that driving a car is an everyday challenge for women in our country. Even when traffic police stop a women, they treat her completely differently than a man: either patronizing or in a boorish way. We can see that our society treats women more sharply and with less respect then men in different spheres and fields.

For example, last time I came to a car pound to pay a fine and to get my car back, I observed an interesting situation. There were three men and two women, the clerks there treated the men respectfully and shouted at the women, though we were all equal clients and were paying huge fines to get our cars back. What is more surprising is that even women treated women with disrespect there!

I just have the impression that there is stereotype that women are viewed as less professional, and all they are interested in is their personal life. You just can’t imagine how many men over 40 consider it their duty to discuss the question of children with me! Some men even say “who would date you?” or “who would want you like that?” though it’s obvious it’s none of their business. They just think I need their advice on private life, though nobody ever gives any advice on professional life or marketing, which I would really appreciate.

How do you see the question of equality of men and women in our country?

I think that objectively the need for equality of men and women is so obvious, that only uneducated people would state the opposite. But after all the fuss about my Facebook post and all the stories I’ve discussed and heard from the journalists and clients, I can see that there is still a lot of inequality in different fields of our society.

I certainly support the idea of gender equality and demonstrate with my own life and business activity that there is nothing impossible for a woman, but I also like beautiful dresses, I do makeup and manicure, I don’t carry heavy weights, I like when a man pays for me in a restaurant – things that an ‘orthodox’ feminist would condemn, I guess.

I don’t participate in an everyday war for women’s rights, I don’t always stand up against people who tell sexist jokes, but I quietly do my work and I demonstrate my position via my professional actions.

So, apart from a female boss, is there anything else that makes your car service special?

With more and more clients coming to us, I realize that there are a lot of car services that just cheat on their clients, that try to exaggerate the problems they have, lie to them and get as much money as possible.

It’s a very common approach towards female clients, as they are considered to be easy to deceive. So we have a lot of women clients who have experienced dishonest service and come to us for help. Obviously, after paying a lot of money for a problem that does not exist and realizing it, the client will never come back.

I have a completely different approach and believe that honesty is the best policy. Our business is small and we need to be sure that every client will come back after our service, and that’s why people trust us. So far, clients keep coming back.

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