The role of women in the auto industry has made a slow and steady increase since the late 1940’s, and today the female presence is extremely important to the industry.
Not only were there officially more licensed female drivers than males in 2012, women have also been making a huge impact on sales in the auto industry. From an NPR published in 2015, women play a leading role in 85% of car buying decisions and according to an article published by Forbes in 2010, 52% of new cars in the U.S. are bought by women.
With that knowledge, auto manufacturers have started designing cars with women’s needs and interests in mind. Manufacturers now seen that a car doesn’t need to be “glamorized” to be fit for a lady (Dodge learned this lesson the hard way), but studies have shown that women prefer a car that is sustainable, practical and efficient. As manufacturers have listened to this, they’ve seen their sales increase.
While women might be influencing the industry with buying power and the ability to drive, a majority of positions in the industry are still held by men. But even that fact is slowly changing.
In 2014 Mary Barra became the CEO of General Motors, the first female CEO of a large automotive company. And the well-known race car driver, Danica Patrick was the first female NASCAR driver to win a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series pole and she is the first female to lead the Indy 500. Even more recent is Michelle Christensen making history as the first woman lead designer for a supercar, which is quite substantial because engineering in all industries is overwhelmingly dominated by men.
Though slow, women’s integration into the industry has been a long time coming, thanks to some of the first female pioneers like, Denise McCluggage, Charlotte Bridgwood and Florence Lawrence. Whether you know these names or not, we can thank them for inventing automatic windshield wipers, creating turn and brake signals and for being the first published female voice in the industry.