Women in the Automotive Industry

These days it’s common to see women in the automotive industry, but this hasn’t always been the case. Apart from the iconic women at the starting line, here are a few of the women of car racing who paved the way!

Formula 1, from 1950 to today

Italian Maria Teresa de Filippis drove in three Grand Prix races between 1958 and 1959, making her F1’s first female driver. Her compatriot Lella Lombardi drove in 17 qualifying sessions and 12 races between 1974 and 1976. English driver Divina Galica made three unsuccessful qualifying attempts between 1976 and 1978, South African driver Desiré Wilson tried once without success in 1980, and Italian Giovanna Amati attempted but failed to qualify three times in 1992.

Lombardi is Formula 1’s most successful female driver to date. She made a name for herself when she placed sixth at the 1975 Spanish Grand Prix, earning half a point and her name in the final race results. Outside of the World Drivers Championship, Wilson won a Formula 1 race in 1980 at the Brands Hatch circuit during the British Formula One Series.

Team leader

Although she stays out of the cockpit, team principal Monisha Kaltenborn has left her mark on the sport. A lawyer by training, she got her start in 2000 managing the Sauber team’s legal affairs. She slowly moved up the ranks to her current position of chief executive officer.

Many public relations, marketing, communication, and senior staff positions in the automotive industry are also held by women. It would be remiss not to mention General Motors CEO Mary Barra, who had to steer the auto manufacturer through a major crisis. With a degree in electrical engineering, this daughter of a GM worker became the first woman to hold a CEO position in the auto industry.