While women have been working in the auto industry since the dawn of cars, it has still long been seen as a male-dominated field. However, many women are working hard to change that perception with their knowledge, leadership, and technical expertise. In honor of Women’s History Month, here are seven women in the auto industry, both technicians and leaders, who are driving change in this world.
1. Patrice Banks – Founder of the Girls Auto Clinic
For years, Patrice Banks, now a well-known auto enthusiast, was tired of feeling like she was being taken advantage of by men who dominated the industry due to her lack of car knowledge when she was purchasing a vehicle or taking one in for repairs. When she talked to other women, she discovered many of them felt the same frustrations.
Banks thought she’d feel more comfortable with a female technician, but she couldn’t locate one in Philadelphia, nor find educational car care resources geared toward women. So, she attended automotive technology school, and in 2015 she launched the Girls Auto Clinic, a company dedicated to educating and empowering women to take charge of their automotive experiences. The Girls Auto Clinic has a repair shop in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania, that hosts workshops for people to learn basic car care tasks, like how to change your own oil, in a hands-on environment. The company’s website also has plenty of blogs and short videos to scroll through. These resources provide helpful how-to’s for minor services and tips to make sure you’re getting honest assessments and services at repair shops.
2. Helen Stanley – Automotive Presenter & Car Customizer
Helen Stanley started her career in the fashion industry, but her passion for automobiles eventually led to an inevitable pivot to a career centered around cars. The self-described “Petrol Head” is now an automotive presenter/columnist covering custom classics, and she also designs one-of-a-kind builds and creates unique car art.
In addition to her custom designs and presenting work, Stanley leads the “Anti-Taste Collective,” a custom car club aiming to bring a more diverse audience into the automotive industry. Stanley wants all people to feel like they can join the custom car scene, regardless of their gender, budget, personal preferences, or design/mechanical ability
3. Debbie Manzano – Director of Manufacturing at Ford Motor Company
Growing up in Detroit, the auto industry always appealed to Debbie Manzano. The Motor City native’s father worked at Ford for more than 30 years, and when she graduated from college in 1994, she followed in his footsteps by launching her career at the famous American automobile manufacturer.
Manzano started as a quality engineer at the company’s Glass Plant at the Rouge helping with process improvements, according to Automotive News. She’s spent time in charge of the Dearborn Truck Plant, the “jewel of the company.” So, if your family has an F-150 or a friend with one has helped you move, you can thank Manzano and her team. Now, she holds the title of Director of Manufacturing.
4. Cynthia Flanigan – Chief Engineer, Hardware Integration, Product Development at Ford Motor Company
Cynthia Flanigan studied materials science and engineering, earning her B.S. from MIT and Ph.D. from Northwestern University. Since graduating, she’s been using her knowledge at the Ford Motor Company to make a major impact, according to an interview she did with Automotive News.
She started as an intern and got her first job in advanced manufacturing and engineering in 2000. Fast forward 20 years, and Flanigan now holds quite the title: Chief Engineer, Hardware Integration, Product Development. Between those two dates, she worked on some significant projects, like creating a soy-based foam for vehicle interiors that has cut down on millions of pounds of CO2 emissions. Her technical expertise and leadership skills have been vital to Ford’s success.
5. Mary Barra – Chair & CEO of General Motors
Until 2014, a woman had never led one of America’s three biggest auto manufacturers. Then, Mary Barra took over General Motors. Under her guidance, GM says they’re striving for a world with zero crashes, no emissions, and no traffic congestion. The company says Barra is focusing on transforming personal mobility by leaning into advanced technologies.
Long before she held the lofty title, Barra started working at the company as a co-op student in 1980. Between 1980 and today, she earned an undergraduate degree in electrical engineering from Kettering University and an MBA from Stanford. At GM, she has held high-ranking roles in Global Human Resources and Global Manufacturing Engineering and served in several other executive engineering roles before becoming the company’s leader.
6. Sandra Aguebor – Nigeria’s First Female Car Mechanic
Sandra Aguebor has loved cars from a young age, but few took her seriously when she decided she wanted to become a mechanic. People tried to intimidate her and humiliate her because a woman working in a garage was (and still is) “a big taboo,” she told Those Who Inspire.
Despite the opposition she faced, Aguebor studied Mechanical Engineering at Auchi Polytechnic and worked for Edo Line and the Nigeria Railway Corporation to gain experience. Eventually, Aguebor decided to open her own shop, and she became even more well-known when she established the Lady Mechanic Initiative (LMI). Aguebor launched the organization in 2004 with a mission of empowering girls and women by teaching them the mechanical and technical skills that helped her follow her dreams.
7. Shanti Devi – India’s First Female Truck Mechanic
Originally, Shanti Devi was a tea shop owner whose husband repaired trucks, according to The Citizen. But when her husband’s workload increased, he encouraged Devi to learn about trucks and help make repairs. Since then, Devi says she’s been doing repairs with pride, and many believe she is India’s first woman working as a truck mechanic. Now, Devi stresses the importance of empowering women to pursue the jobs that interest them, no matter what field they’re in.
These seven women deserve to be celebrated, but there are so many others who have made or are still making world-changing contributions! Check out these related blogs to learn more:
- 5 Automotive Inventions by Women That Changed the History of Driving
- 10 Amazing Women Your Kids Can Look Up To
And if you want to boost your automotive knowledge, here are some places that offer online courses: