Happy International Women’s Day! This year’s theme is #BalanceforBetter. As a company in a male-heavy industry, we recognize and support the need for gender parity and equal representation.
In honor of today, we’d like to honor 5 women that have left an indelible mark on the automotive industry with their intelligence, drive, and talent. Ladies, we salute you.
We can’t talk about notable automotive women without the incomparable Danica Patrick! She has earned her place in history as the most successful female racer ever. Her incredible drive resulted in not only the first Indy 500 win for a female ever, but also the most top ten finishes for a female driver in Nascar’s Sprint Series.
Bertha Benz completed the first long-distance car journey in history, all without her husband’s knowledge. She made the 66-mile trip from Mannheim to Pforzheim in 1888 in her husband’s patented motor car, which helped Benz market and sell their first models. Her trip proved the reliability of their invention and contributed to substantial improvements to the patent. Bertha’s contributions helped changed automobiles from a fascination to an industry.
Denise McCluggage was a race car driver, journalist, photographer, and author. Her persistence and pioneering spirit helped her forge ahead in the struggle for equality for women. She moved to New York for her journalism career but found herself drawn to professional car racing. Five years later, she became the first female driver to win the feature sports-car event at Thompson Raceway in Connecticut.
After narrowly avoiding a nearly fatal incident involving an oncoming truck that was unwilling to share the road, this former nurse and physician was inspired. She decided to paint lines on the black top, separating the lanes of oncoming traffic. The Riverside Country Board rejected the idea, but June carried on undeterred. Doctor McCarroll decided to take matters into her own hands and personally painted the first white stripe on today’s Indio Boulevard in 1917.
Damsels of Design
Our final spotlight highlights a group of women that changed automotive design and rethought the way cars looked and operated.
Throughout the 1940s, Harley J. Earl began hiring female automotive designers from some of the best design schools in the country – including Pratt Institute’s industrial design program, but the hirings weren’t publicized until the 1950s. The first 10 designers that were publicly acknowledged were dubbed GM’s “Damsels of Design,” with 6 of them being tagged specifically for GM’s auto division. These innovators introduced features that are still used today, such as the retractable seat belt, glove compartments, light-up mirrors, and child safety locks.
Here are a few names to look up: Suzanne Vanderbilt, Ruth Glennie, Marjorie Ford Pohlman, Harley Earl, Jeanette Linder, Sandra Logyear, and Peggy Sauer.
We at Shift tip our hats to all of the women that have fought, sacrificed, and innovated within the automotive industry. Their contributions continue to shape our lives. Thank you, ladies!
Interesting in disrupting the car industry and creating a better more inclusive way to buy a car? Join us! We are always looking for talented individuals to be a part of our growing team.