Women in the automotive repair and maintenance industry are making some positive strides. Here are some of the most dedicated women who have made it through the ranks to the C-suite and beyond.
Driving Purchases and Companies
Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors
Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors, has helped to boost GM out of their recall slump and is looking to keep moving forward. Elected as chairwoman of the Board of Directors in 2016, Barra has been acting as CEO since 2014. She started out as an electrical engineer with a co-op in the Pontaic Motor Division of General Motors. She rose through several managerial positions, at one point managing the entire Detriot Hamtramck Assembly facility. Under her leadership, GM has moved to be more customer focused in all of their endeavors.
Jody DeVere, CEO of Ask Patty
Jody DeVere, CEO of AskPatty, created the website and blog to help women navigate the world of automotive retail and service. As well providing automotive education to women, AskPatty offers certifications, training, and marketing support to dealers and independent repair shops. She created the Certified Female Friendly training program to help shops become more accommodating to female consumers and ensure that all customers are treated equally. DeVere is passionate about supporting women in the automotive industry, and has been speaking, writing, and advising companies for over 25 years.
Jean Jennings, automotive writer and personality
Jean Jennings, current editor of her own automotive blog Jean Knows Cars and former president and editor in chief of Automobile Magazine, has been writing about cars for over thirty years. At the age of 18, Jennings had already built her own taxi and was operating as a member of the Yellow Cab Company of Ann Arbor Michigan. From there she went on to work in the impact lab at Chrysler as a mechanic and test track driver. Spending so much time around cars, it was a logical jump for her to begin writing about cars. After working at Car and Driver magazine for 5 years, she worked to establish, and eventually become the president of, Automobile Magazine. Jennings has been an automotive contributor on several television shows and has won several awards for her writing.
Audra Fordin, owner and operator of Great Bear Auto Repair
Audra Fordin is the owner and operator of Great Bear Auto Repair and Auto Body Shop in Flushing, NY. She purchased the family business in 1998 and has been helping it grow ever since. In addition, she also runs the non-profit Women Auto Know that helps women learn about cars and find reliable repair shops. Auto repair centers can become a part of the WAK registry if they meet certain service criteria such as a clean, comfortable waiting room and transparency surrounding repairs.
Patrice Banks, CEO and founder of Girls Auto Clinic
Patrice Banks, CEO and founder of Girls Auto Clinic, is a materials science engineer turned mechanic turned entrepreneur. After earning her degree in Automotive Technology, she created GAC as a comfortable environment for women to receive automotive service. The Clinic offers a variety of automotive services as well as the on-site Clutch Beauty Bar where customers can enjoy salon treatments while they wait. Banks is also committed to helping other women learn about their vehicles and auto repairs, thus her clinic also offers workshops for women to learn how to perform repairs on their own vehicles.
Michelle Christensen, the first female exterior designer at Acura, designed the new Acura NSX. A graduate of Pasadena’s Art Center College of Design, Christensen earned an internship at Volvo’s Camarillo studio before being hired on at Honda. She had no previous experience in designing automotive exteriors before entering Art Center. The NSX is an all-wheel drive hybrid with an aggressive stance and somehow graceful lines. Described as a luxury-performance car, the NSX most likely just one of Christensen’s many successes to come.
These are just a small sampling of the women changing the face of the automotive industry. It has been proven that a gender diverse workplace leads to greater organizational excellence, which leads to greater profitability. A more diverse workplace attracts more problem solvers and tech savvy millennials of both genders. As the automotive industry becomes more computerized, these individuals become more and more of an asset to repair shops and dealerships. Clearly, increasing gender parity in the workplace should be a priority for automakers as well as those in the aftermarket. Companies are starting to see the value in gender diversity. Many have started to introduce hiring programs and scholarships to help women make inroads into the industry. Progress is slow but it is being made.