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AA celebrates 25 years of female patrols

Wed, 18 Sep 2013

ON SEPTEMBER 12th 1998 Georgina King became an overnight celebrity as she became the first female patrol to join the AA.

Georgina says: "I was introduced at a press conference in Leicester Square and my picture ended up in all the papers. When I met customers out on the road they were a bit surprised to be confronted with a woman. They just weren't expecting it!"

25 years later her modern counterpart is 33-year-old Tina Smith from Ipswich, who became an AA patrol in 2010 after previously working in motorsport and at a BMW dealership.

Tina Smith says: "When I phone the member to say I'm getting close, they often assume I'm a girl in the office till I explain that I'm the patrol. Every day, most members make a comment about me being a woman but it's virtually all positive with women really appreciative of a female patrol.

"I love using my initiative to fix a car but the best thing about it is rescuing people. When I worked in a garage, I never got to speak with customers. I really enjoy the job and would love to see more women in the industry."

Georgina left the AA in 2001 but still uses the skills honed on the hard shoulder, working at Central Sussex College training apprentice mechanics.

Steve Dewey, AA road operations director, says: "It's fair to say that there are lots of different stereotypes associated with being a roadside patrol, both around the work it entails and the people who do it. Georgina was a pioneer and now Tina and our other female patrols continue to blaze a trail to show that there are no barriers to pursuing it as a career. We hope others are inspired by their success.

"It's an interesting and varied role. Patrols meet new people every day and work on virtually any vehicle on the road. We would welcome anyone, female or male, looking for a career as a patrol - people skills are just as important as a good level of technical expertise."

While the AA has long been keen to attract more women into frontline roles they remain a rarity. Tina is its only roadside patrol and there are six other female patrols and technicians - three AA Battery Assist technicians, two recovery patrols and an AA Home Emergency Service plumber.

In addition, the AA's 'storm-chasing' Special Operations team includes a further five, normally office-based, female crew members. They use adapted Land Rovers and receive flood rescue and 4x4 training.

By Press Association reporters