Women, Wheels, & Equality
The automotive industry is filled with women who’ve made big contributions and served as inspirations to those who’ve followed.
Here’s a quick look at five women who currently have big roles in the automotive world and, like their predecessors, serve as mentors and role models for women around the world.
Becky Blanchard started with Chrysler 20 years ago in the company’s Institute of Engineering program. After earning her BS and MS in mechanical engineering, she held a variety of positions with the company before moving to marketing, where she now serves as the director of Ram Brand Marketing. Blanchard credits her parents for guiding her career path and instilling in her a strong work ethic, and she focuses on being a good role model and leading by example while mentoring young women and men.
Racer Danica Patrick has made a name for herself by successfully going where no woman had gone before: to victory circle in an IndyCar race. In a racing career that has included open-wheel racing and NASCAR, she also became the first woman to win the pole at the iconic Daytona 500.
Cara Adams is chief engineer for Bridgestone Americas Motorsports, where she heads performance tire operations for the company’s Firestone brand in the Verizon IndyCar Series. Adams, the first ever female chief engineer in the series, was inspired to pursue an engineering career by her science teacher mother and her grandfather, a NASA engineer, who she says helped her grow up with no preconceived notion of what a woman should or shouldn’t do.
As the vice president and a board member of the United Auto Workers (UAW), Cindy Estrada certainly doesn’t fit the stereotypical image of a union leader. But after being elected to her third term as the UAW’s vice president in 2018, it’s obvious she easily fills the shoes that were once exclusively worn by men. A longtime union organizer and social activist, Estrada is the first Latina elected to serve as an International UAW officer.
Lara Harrington grew up tinkering on cars alongside her dad in the family garage. She has taken that love of working on cars and turned it into a career with Honda. She started as a structural design engineer with the company in 1991 and is now the chief engineer and senior director of Technology Outreach at Honda’s Research and Development Americas facility in Ohio. As her career has progressed in what many consider a male-dominated industry, so has her rank. She now serves as a mentor and role model to young female engineers, and she was named to the 2015 Automotive News’ “Top 100 Women in the Auto Industry.”
What other women do you know of who have influenced the auto industry?