Women in Automotive: Who Are the Leaders?

IWD 2019.png

Happy International Women’s Day! In 1975, March 8 was adopted by the United Nations as International Women’s Day worldwide, and today, we want to celebrate the women in the automotive industry.  

Some of the strong, intelligent, and amazing women that come to mind for us include Tabetha Hammer of Hagerty, Laura Pierce from Toyota Racing, Mary Ann Capo from Chrysler, Deborah Wahl from Cadillac, Wendy Orthman from Nissan, Leigh Anne Sessions from Toyota Racing, Pam Miller of Fox Sports, Jill Gregory from NASCAR, Jessica Tullman from Subaru, Nancy Hubbell and Nicky Hamila from Toyota, Kimberly Schultz and Kelley Enright from FCA, Audrey Lundy of Lexus, Christine Overstreet of Heels & Wheels, Jodi Richards of SDMI, K&N racecar driver Hailie Deegan, and Kathy Graham of Borg Warner. And there are many more we love.

We asked some of our favorite female automotive journalists this question: 

Which automotive brands are doing great things for women?

Amelia with Laura Schwab of Aston Martin. Photo: Amelia Dalgaard

Amelia with Laura Schwab of Aston Martin. Photo: Amelia Dalgaard

 AMELIA DALGAARD, Motorhead Mama:

“I think each brand is doing things in a particular category but no one is nailing it from top to bottom.  

Volvo has women in prominent positions and creates cars that suit the needs of women and moms. Safe, beautiful, and powerful without being too masculine. 

Aston Martin has a female president and creates vehicles that are feminine and strong while being extraordinarily beautiful. 

But the one with the most potential is GM! With Mary Barra at the top, the new female CFO, Dhivya Suryadevara, and CMO Deborah Wahl at Cadillac, I’m anxiously watching GM to see how this shift in female management affects company and its products.”

We’re big fans of Nicole Wakelin, too

We’re big fans of Nicole Wakelin, too

NICOLE WAKELIN, Boston Globe (and many more)

“I don’t know that any one brand is excelling in this area. I think there is an overall move to acknowledge that women aren’t just the ‘little lady’ anymore and that women are often making buying decisions with their partners or entirely on their own. 

You also see more women in advertising. It’s not only minivans, but sports cars where automakers show women at the wheel enjoying driving. That’s a way of acknowledging women and encouraging them to come into the showroom. 

What happens in the showroom is where things can go horribly sideways. An automaker can do everything to encourage women to buy its cars, but a salesman straight out of Mad Men can undo it all in a heartbeat and send them right back out the door.” 

Lexus’ Peggy Turner and Leigh Anne Sessions (now Toyota Racing). Photo: Fadra Nally

Lexus’ Peggy Turner and Leigh Anne Sessions (now Toyota Racing). Photo: Fadra Nally

FADRA NALLY, All Things Fadra

“Love this question! Two companies do jump to mind. The first is Lexus. I met Peggy Turner a few years ago at two Lexus events for women only, managed by Heels & Wheels. This post showcases a lot of the things I love that they were doing for women - not just at the event but in their overall business model, including what their sales professionals wear to work.  

I also feel like I should give a shout out to GM. Although I'm not a big GM car lover, I love that they have a female CEO. And Kim Carpenter, whom I worked with quite a bit on the Chevy side of things on the East Coast, left her position so that she could work through the GM Executive Training program. I've also met a ton women in more female roles like designers (for the interior) but also as heads of departments like Pam Fletcher, VP of Global Electric Vehicle Programs. She's now Vice President of Innovation. 

I see a lot of ‘token’ females at other car companies but those are two where I definitely see not only females but female leadership.” 

Scotty Reiss and Mary Barra. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Scotty Reiss and Mary Barra. Photo: Scotty Reiss

SCOTTY REISS, A Girls’ Guide to Cars

“The company that has been most female-forward in terms of employment and leadership is General Motors. GM has had a formal program for developing female employees and leadership for more than 30 years., and there are many women at the highest levels, including Mary Barra, who is a product of that effort and a leader of that effort.

GM has also been a champion of women as customers. They have developed products that are more female friendly, put engineers in positions to design cars for women, and they’ve even developed dealership training programs that help women to be successful as dealers.

Another brand that has been fantastic in terms of developing products for women is Toyota. Lexus has had the number one crossover since the category was introduced when they launched the RX 350, and the produce is almost completely driven by women. In fact, they really needed to retool it so it appealed more to men, which is what they did on the last redesign. Their other products are very female friendly and Toyota has recognized the power of their female customers and embrace that in their advertising and product development.

I also want to mention Deborah Wahl from Cadillac, Joy Falotico from Lincoln (and previously with Ford for 30 years), and Joyful Onoko from Lincoln for their success. Their respective companies have recognized the appeal to female buyers.”



Kristin Shaw