Driving for a Change: Women in the Automotive
It’s rare to hear about women in the automotive industry. This male-dominated field sees far more male drivers, manufacturers, leaders, and engineers in the spotlight than it does the women who are working just as hard to push the industry forward.
Drawing women out from behind the automotive curtain is essential nowadays. Doing so helps an expanding field open up even further while also bringing the past contributions of under-appreciated women to light.
With that in mind, who are some of the most important women in the 21st century automotive industry, and how can we celebrate their achievements?
Running down the track: women in racing
For a while, Desire Wilson was the biggest name would-be women racing drivers knew. She was the first female driver to come out on top of a Formula One race nearly 40 years ago. With that victory, she brought a new wave of female motorsports drivers onto the track. Nowadays, female F1 drivers include:
- Danica Patrick – placed in the top ten of the 2010 IndyCar Race
- Simona de Silvestro – placed in the top ten of the 2010 IndyCar Race
- Lella Lombardi – the first women to score points in an F1 race
- Carmen Jorda – employed by Lotus and Renault Sport
- Susie Stoddart – an F1 development driver
- Vanina Ickx – a consistent GT driver
That list of names is still small, but it’s growing every year.
At the top: women in business and leadership
Women aren’t just making their way onto the track though. Many have worked behind the scenes for years and are just now having their names brought into the public eye. Here, you’ll find Claire Williams OBE serving as the head of the Williams F1 racing team. You’ll just as readily find Michele Mouton working in team management with the FIA Women & Motorsports Commission.
Most notable, however, is Grace Lieblein. After spending several years working in an automotive assembly plant, Lieblein was able to use her 34 years of experience to secure a position as VP of global purchasing for General Motors.
Similarly, Linda Hasenfratz assumed the role of CEO of Linamar Corporation in Canada after the passing of her father in 2002. In recognition of her work, EY named her Entrepreneur of the Year in 2014, making her the first woman ever to lay claim to the title.
Under the hood: women in car maintenance
Where do women work though, when not in the office or on the track? As it turns out, you’ll find many in the garage. Big names in automobile maintenance include Andra Fordin. Fordin helms Great Bear Auto Body Center in Flushing, Queens. She emphasises the need for other women to join her in the garage by teaching a “Women Auto Know” course aimed to familiarise women with engines and other mechanical means.
Chris Barman also represents women in the garage. While she now serves as the Vehicle Line Executive for the Chrysler Group LLC, she spent her formative years taking on internships that let her work in garages. While she no longer works on cars first-hand, that know-how enables her to aid in the design and manufacturing of several new Chrysler vehicles, including the Dodge Magnum.
In the engine: women in engineering and manufacturing
Pull back from car maintenance, and you’ll find a litany of people working on the effective design and creation of F1 vehicles. Elsa Foley is among the biggest names in car manufacturing thanks to her long-term experience with Nissan. Foley moved to create the Rear Door Alert alongside fellow engineer, Marlene Mendoza. This alert aims to keep children safe in hot cars by alerting parents to their presence.
Alicia Boler-Davis breaks boundaries on two fronts, leaving gender and racial stereotypes in her wake. She first served as a manufacturing engineer with GM, Lending her expertise to the design of vehicles and netting a place on the 100 Lead Women in the North American Automotive Industry list. She also received the Technologist of the Year award in 2014 from the Women in Color magazine. Nowadays, Boler-Davis serves as senior VP with GM, but her roots remain steeped in her technological know-how.
At the shop: women as consumers
Get to the showroom and you won’t have to search for women and their consumer impact. Why? Because female car buyers have become more confident when seeking out the kinds of cars they like.
According to Edmunds’ Car Shopping and Gender Report, Millennial women, in particular, break the stereotypes and more confidently than men purchase cars that suit their driving styles. The most popular vehicles bought by female drivers include compact cars and smaller SUVs, as these vehicles are considered more utilitarian than the male-preferred sports cars.
One day, we won’t have to dig deep to understand women’s contributions to the auto industry. For now though, future F1 drivers or interested car buyers can look to the names listed here. With these women leading the way, who knows? We could see a better-integrated automotive industry in the near future.
This story was originally published on https://www.oponeo.co.uk/blog/women-in-the-automotive-industry.