11 March 2024

6 women who revolutionized the automotive industry

Though the automotive industry has historically been male-dominated, women have played a crucial role in its evolution. Today, we celebrate these trailblazers who have shaped the automotive landscape and paved the way for future generations. Here are 6 women who have revolutionized the automotive industry.

Bertha Benz : The first women to do a road trip

Wife of Carl Benz, the inventor of what is considered the first modern car, the Benz Patent Motorcar, Bertha played a pivotal role in the marketing of this vehicle. In the late 19th century, when this car was invented, people of that era were skeptical about its potential for personal transportation. To prove to everyone that the car was functional, Bertha took the initiative one night while her husband was sleeping to take two of their sons and secretly leave the house. Leaving only a note behind, they set out on the road to her mother’s house located 60 miles away. Along the way, she had to make several repairs to the car, but she successfully arrived at her destination 13 hours later. This marked the first time that someone completed a long-distance road trip.

Source : Mercedes-Benz Group

Maria Teresa de Filippis : First women in F1

In response to a challenge posed by her two brothers in 1948, Maria participated in her first car race at the age of 22 behind the wheels of a tiny Fiat Topolino. She immediately developed a keen interest for racing and began to run in minor Italian car championships. In 1955, she teamed up with Maserati for the Italian Drivers’ Championship and began her F1 career on May 18, 1958, in the Monaco Grand Prix. Over the course of her career, she entered seven Grand Prix, qualifying for three of the five of those that counted towards the title.

Popperfoto/Getty Images

Michelle Christensen : First women to design a supercar

During her studies in Transportation Design at the ArtCenter College of Design, Michelle worked on a groundbreaking design that would soon catch the attention of Acura recruiters. Following her graduation, Acura recruited her to become the first female exterior car designer at the company. Over the next few years, she transformed her class project into reality with the 2010 Acura ZDX crossover vehicle. Then, she went on to design and develop the 2nd generation Acura NSX, making her the first woman to design a supercar.

Source : Acura


Florence Lawrence : First person to develop the first version of flashers and a stop sign

Hollywood actor and automobile enthusiast, Florence had a love for cars. Her inventive spirit led her to develop several improvements and accessories, the most notable being the « auto signaling arm, » considered the precursor to modern turn signals. This device, mounted on the car’s fender, allowed drivers to signal their intention to turn left or right with the push of buttons from the driver’s seat. Another innovative creation was a « full stop » sign that could be raised or lowered at the car’s rear by simply pressing on the footbrake. While Florence never patented her inventions, their improved versions quickly gained popularity. By 1939, Buick had standardized electrical turn signals in all its vehicles, a testament to the impact of Florence’s pioneering designs

Source :


Mary Barra : First women CEO of ‘Big Three’ automaker in America

She began her career with GM in 1980 as part of a student co-op program with the Pontiac Motor Division. She climbed the ranks and was promoted numerous times to significant positions before being appointed president in 2014.

Source : GM


Mary Anderson : First women to develop windshield wipers 

While exploring New York City on a snowy day in the early 1900s, Mary noticed that streetcar drivers had to open their windows to see, sometimes even stepping out of the car to clear the window. She had an idea: a lever inside the vehicle that controlled a spring-loaded arm with a rubber blade. Equipped with a counterweight to keep the wiper in touch with the window, the lever could move the blade across the windshield, clearing away rain or snow. Anderson patented her invention in 1903, making it the first effective windshield-clearing device.

Source : National Inventors Hall of Fame


In conclusion, these visionary women have not only pushed the boundaries of the automotive industry, but they have also paved the way for new opportunities for future generations. To learn more about the women of HGregoire, we invite you to watch our videos on automotive careers as seen by women.