Parting from traditional gender roles

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March 29, 2017 - 12:00 AM

HUMBOLDT — March is National Women’s History Month.
The 2017 theme honors women who have successfully challenged the traditional role of women in the workplace. Stacey Burton, 49, Humboldt, is a local woman who has not only challenged the role of women in the paid labor force but also challenged herself to go outside her comfort level.
Although Burton just started selling parts last week at O’Reilly Auto Parts, Iola, she is no stranger to automobiles. The mother of four and grandmother of 10 worked at Twin Motors Ford for a short time, and between the years of 1996 and 1998 worked for O’Reilly Auto Parts in Chaunte.
“I have always worked in a man’s world,” she said.“Don’t tell me I can’t do something. I will prove you wrong.”
That “man’s world” includes construction and operating heavy equipment.
Shawn Schlotterbeck, manager of the Iola O’Reillys, said Burton was hired because she has several years’ experience of working for the company.
“She knew what she was talking about and seemed confident about herself,” he said. “She had a personality to her that deals good with people.”
Although gender does not sell auto parts and personality does, according to Schlotterbeck, customer service skills are not all that Burton can boast of. She does most of her own car repairs.
“I do my own brakes, change batteries, do my own oil changes. I have done as much as tear engines apart and put them back together,” she said. 
A lot of Burton’s automotive background stems from her dad, Charles Reagan, Santa Maria, Calif., and her grandpa, Clifford Slawson, Pismo Beach, Calif.
“Back when I was about 9 years old I started helping my dad work on his 1963 Ford pickup,” Burton said.“I always followed my grandpa around and helped him do stuff like that, too.”
Burton grew up in California and first moved to Iola in 1983. She has lived in Ohio, Indiana and Arizona since then.
“Now I am back,” she said of living in Iola once again for more than three years.
Schlotterbeck said hiring women is not new to O’Reilly Automotive, Inc. He said he recently attended a corporate event in which  approximately one third of the managers were female. That accommodating attitude, however, has not always been shared with Burton.
“Some of them, until they get to know me, are kind-of iffy because I am a woman, but once they realize that I know what I am talking about they will even come ask me with questions,” Burton said.
O’Reilly’s openness toward hiring females also does not guarantee how male customers respond to her, she said. 
“Most of the older men, they have a hard time with a woman being in the auto parts business. On multiple occasions I have had to literally prove myself with my knowledge to win them over,” she said. She does, however, get a favorable response from female customers.
“They actually like it that they can talk to another woman who knows what she is talking about,” Burton said.
Burton said one of her daughters, Lindsay Eisenburg of Phoenix, also loves to work on cars.
The advice that Burton passes down to any female wishing to work in a role traditionally thought of a man’s is, “If you can do it, set your mind to it and it can be done,” she said.

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