International Women’s Day: Automotive Leaders

March 8th, 2016 by

In honor of International Women’s Day,  we salute some of the women who have made automotive history. Although the industry has been dominated by men, women have made important contributions from the early 1900s through today.

woman and car

  • 1903–Mary Anderson invented windshield wipers
  • 1909– Alice Huyler Ramsey was the first woman to drive across the United States; first woman inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame, 2000
  • 1913–Florence Laurence was silent film star that invented turn signals and brake lights
  • 1916—the Girl Scouts created an “Automobiling Badge” to teach driving skills, automotive mechanics and first aid
  • 1943–Helene Rother was hired by General Motors as the first female automotive designer
  • 1954– Denise McCluggage hired as a sportswriter/automotive journalist; 2001 inducted into Automotive Hall of Fame
  • 1980, 1982, 1997—Known as the “First Lady of Drag Racing”, Shirley “Cha-Cha” Muldowney,won the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) Top Fuel championship three times; inducted into 1990 Motorsports Hall of Fame America; 2001 named to NHRA “Top 50 Drivers of 1951-2000”;  2004 inducted into International Motorsports Hall of Fame.
  • 1992–Lyn St. James was the first Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year and founded the Women in the Winner’s Circle Foundation , a female driver development academy.
  • 1993–Automotive Women’s Alliance Foundation  was founded, a non-profit dedicated to advancement of women in global automotive industry
  • 2014–Mary T. Barra—Appointed, first CEO of major automotive brand General Motors; 2016 promoted to CEO and Chairman


Today, women hold engineering, design and executive leadership positons throughout the automotive industry, are employed as motorsports journalists and compete on a number of racing circuits. And perhaps most importantly, it is estimated that women influence up to 80% of all car purchase decisions.

It’s been quite a ride.