3 Powerful Women Driving the Auto Industry

Women continue to tear down stereotypes and shatter the glass ceiling, and the auto industry is no exception. Once a “male only” field, women continue to climb the ranks and a handful have conquered the industry at the top. We are thrilled to see more female executives emerge as key players at the table rather than just models in sports car advertisements.

Beyond Glass Ceilings

When it comes to female CEOs, there are already a lot of greats to consider. Still, it’s hard not to want to focus on the firsts. For example, Mary Barra more than earned her CEO title at General Motors back in 2014, especially since she’s the first woman ever in that role for a major multinational automaker.

Of course, there are other, smaller firsts when it comes to automakers. Dianne Craig made an impact three years prior as president and CEO of Ford Motor Company of Canada, going on to serve in that capacity for the next six years. Just this year, the parent company promoted Craig to the role of U.S. director of sales—perhaps she’ll be following in Barra’s footsteps in due time.

Revving Up Revenues

Even though female leadership has risen to record numbers in recent years, the vast majority of CEOs continues to be men. However, recent research has found reason for companies to consider expanding the number of powerful women in the workplace much further going forward. According to a study by the folks at Quantopian, an up-and-coming investment firm, female leaders in top global companies tend to make their companies and investors a whole lot of money—conservatively speaking, they produce around triple the returns of their male counterparts over the length of their tenure.

In keeping with those statistics, Barra has led GM to prosperity through the aftermath of its 2009 bankruptcy and a massive recall soon after her promotion. She’s made game-changing decisions, such as leaving the Russian market. Indeed, Barra’s focus on improving technology and business practices runs counter to longtime assumptions that women can’t navigate tech or make financial decisions as well as men.

Changing Perceptions

Who says that Mary Barra’s success can only be inspirational to other women, though? She’s certainly garnered a lot of attention for being a woman, but the advice that she’s given in the resulting interviews has almost always been applicable to just about anyone. She often describes her own road to success as being centered on taking initiative and especially taking on the problems that seem most nerve-wracking at first.

Barra isn’t at all alone in her way of thinking. Enterprise Holdings’ Pamela Nicholson made it into the role of CEO by seeing a challenge—the disparity of female leaders in the auto industry—and using it as her motivation to grow professionally. Even if the challenge itself had been different—and surely there were many others—Nicholson would have tackled it head on anyway. And that’s how a woman makes history.


To be sure, the number of women at the head of large companies has a long way to go and grow. It’ll likely be decades before being female can no longer be considered a disadvantage to women in business. However, women like Mary Barra, Dianne Craig, and Pamela Nicholson prove one thing for certain—women in leadership can offer many advantages to any and all businesses, including those in the automotive industry.