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Pioneering Women in Motoring

The motoring industry is all too often considered a man’s game. A blokey bloke man, for that matter! But it’s just simply not the case – there have been some incredibly pioneering women involved in motoring. So put any old boys club stereotypes aside and check out these innovative, entrepreneurial and downright speedy women in motoring.

Mary Barra

Forbes once called her ‘The Most Powerful Woman in the Automotive Industry’ – and that was before she took over as CEO of General Motors - so not including her in our roundup would have been clear sacrilege.

Last year was a big year for Barra. Not only did she get promoted to CEO of GM, but a few months later she was feature on the cover of The Times’ “100 most influential people in the world”.

So just how did she go about securing that much coveted title? She got in there pronto! Barra started working at GM when she was just 18 and went on to hold a range of admin and engineering positions. She expanded her knowledge by studying electrical engineering at GM Institute (Kettering University now) and got a Bachelor of Science Degree. She went on to receive a GM fellowship and an MBA in 1990. And then? She just kept going! From Vice President of Global Manufacturing Engineering to Vice President of Global Product Development, the latter included responsibility for design. Barra’s strategy seemed to be to gain a great understanding of the business inside and out, hiring anyone else as CEO would have been mad!

As for her passion? Her favourite cars are the Chevrolet Camaro and the Pontiac Firebird. Nice choice.

Danica Patrick

The most successful woman racer ever, Danica Patrick has been paving the way for female race drivers for quite some time. She was the first woman to lead the Indy 500 and the first to win pole position at the Daytona 500.

So where did it all begin? Patrick started out by go-karting in 1992 at the grand old age of 10. She caught the need to speed and aged 16 crossed the pond to Milton Keynes in order to improve her racing career. This lead to her racing in national series events against the likes of future F1 world champ Jenson Button!

This year Patrick has already competed at Martinsville where she finished 7th, tying with Janet Guthrie for the most top 10s by a woman in Sprint Cup Series History. And then? She nabbed the title in Bristol when she finished 9th!

So what is left? After her 2013 season she had eight top 20 finishes, but it’s not enough for this ambitious racer who reportedly said: “I was bought up to be the fasted driver, not the fastest girl.” Hear, hear!

Chris Barman

Slightly lesser known, but no less impressive is Chris Barman. She is heavily involved behind the scenes, hence the lack of limelight.  Barman has recently snagged the title of “Head of System and Component Engineering” at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, after a long career in design with the Chrysler Group.

Whilst at the Chrysler Group she was singled out by CEO Sergio Marchionne for her excellent work on the compact Dodge Dart. She has designed the electrical component and system design.

So what lead to this incredible design career? She has both a BS and MS degree in mechanical engineering, plus an MBA for good measure.

In 2010 Barman was included in Automotive News’ ‘100 Leading Women in the North American Automotive Industry’, and in 2013 CNN Money named her one of the  ‘Top 10 women in the motor industry’

Of being a woman in the auto industry, she told Automotive News: “It is a predominantly male industry, especially on the engineering side. That said, I've never had anything held against me for being a female. I look at the talent in the room, not the sex or the race of the people.”

And when she’s had enough of cars? She unwinds by shooting hoops. Now that is just plain cool. 

Offbeat  22/05/2015 11:14:24

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