Women Who Bring Their Trucks to Life

Updated on Mar 28, 2024

It’s no secret that men dominate the automotive industry. From media personalities and executives to laborers, men significantly outnumber women. Recent studies have shown that, though women comprise nearly half of the labor force, they only make up approximately 27 percent of automotive laborers and under 10 percent of automotive executives! 

Though women don't dominate the automotive industry, they aren't absent – quite the opposite! Throughout the years, women have made massive strides to develop several automotive technologies that have revolutionized the industry we all hold dear. Young women also make up a large proportion of automotive enthusiasts and influencers, expanding the hobby beyond its typical male demographics thanks to social media platforms!   

In this article, in collaboration with Women’s History Month, we’re discussing some of the auto industry’s most notable and influential women, including celebrities, influencers, and those in the automotive sector.

Women’s History Month

Before we dig into women in the auto industry, let’s take a moment to shed light on Women’s History Month, which honors history's most influential women! Since 1987, March has been synonymous with Women’s History Month. March honors women’s advocacy, sacrifice, influence, and achievement in an overwhelmingly male-dominated society, highlighting those who often failed to garner the recognition they deserved. 

Without women making room for themselves in male-dominated fields, we’d lack countless technological advancements, scientific achievements, and policies. Women like Marie Curie, who championed the use of radiation in medical treatments; Amelia Earhart, who holds the title of the first pilot to fly nonstop across the United States; and Eleanor Roosevelt, who redefined the role of First Lady and made massive strides in human rights, are just three of the countless women receiving their flowers this month.

Women and Trucks

With an understanding of Women’s History Month and why we celebrate, let’s turn our attention to women behind the wheel! In this section, we’re covering some of the most influential women in the automotive industry, ranging from celebrities who showcase their affinity for pickups to women who pioneered the vital tech we still use today!

Women in the Automotive Industry

As referenced previously, men significantly outnumber women in the automotive sector, and that’s going off of today’s stats! This number has grown considerably over the past century, though even today, enthusiasts can hardly recite the names of the women behind the automotive tech they use every day! In this section, let’s look at some of the most notable women in the industry and their essential contributions.

Bertha Benz

Mercedes Benz is one of the most well-known automakers in the world, renowned for its unmatched build quality and luxurious amenities. Though you may be familiar with Mercedes founder Karl Benz, his wife Bertha played an integral role in the company’s founding and the automobile’s widespread popularity! 

As a business partner in what would eventually become Mercedes Benz, Bertha used her status and wealth to aid the development of the Benz Patent-Motorwagen: a motorized tricycle that changed human mobility forever. Bertha Benz didn’t just sit behind a desk; she's also credited with inventing brake linings, which eventually became modern drum brake shoes, disk brakes, and brake pads! Bertha also piloted the Motorwagen on its first long-distance journey, proving the motorized carriage concept.

Margaret A. Wilcox

Margaret A. Wilcox was an American mechanical engineer best known for her technological advancements in the late 19th century. One of her most notable inventions is the automotive temperature regulation system, which paved the way for modern climate control systems found in practically every new automobile! 

So, the next time you crank your car’s air conditioning on a warm afternoon or blast the heater on an icy morning, thank Margaret A. Wilcox.

Mary Anderson

In 1903, American mogul and inventor Mary Anderson patented the world’s first effective windshield wiper system. Though intended for use aboard trolley cars in large cities, GM later adapted the technology for automotive use. By 1922, Cadillac began installing windshield wipers as standard equipment! 

Next time you’re driving in the rain, thank Mary Anderson for her contributions to poor weather visibility!

Florence Lawrence

Though not every driver seems to remember turn signals exist, there’s no doubting the system’s impact on automotive safety. However, not many know that the turn signal's roots can be traced back to Canadian-born inventor Florence Lawrence. Lawrence developed the first mechanically operated signal arm in the early 1900s, which relied on a mechanical lever to actuate a flag mounted to a vehicle’s rear bumper, dictating the direction a driver would turn. Scholars also credit Lawrence with inventing a rudimentary stop signal, which drivers actuated by depressing the brake pedal.

Though Florence Lawrence never patented her inventions, modernized electric versions of turn signals and brake lamps quickly gained popularity.

The Damsels of Design

In the mid-1950s, GM lead designer Harley Earl noticed an uptick in vehicle purchases by women. With this information in mind, Earl pieced together a team of ten female designers to appeal to women’s tastes and needs, which he dubbed "the Damsels of Design." Though the women weren't keen on the title, as it separated them from their male counterparts, they understood the impact of their employment at GM. 

While four Damsels worked for GM’s appliance subsidiary Frigidaire, six members focused on GM’s automotive brands, including Chevrolet, Pontiac, Buick, Cadillac, and Oldsmobile. The auto-centered Damsels consisted of Suzanne Vanderbilt, Ruth Glennie, Marjorie Ford Pohlman, Jeanette Linder, Sandra Longyear, and Peggy Sauer, who went to work redesigning several of GM’s best-selling vehicles to appeal to women and families. 

The Damsels displayed the culmination of their efforts to GM execs at the 1958 “Feminine Auto Show.” Notable design cues included illuminated sun visors, center consoles, glove-box-mounted vanities, and retractable seat belts! Though the Damsels of Design disbanded in the 1960s after Earl’s retirement, several design cues are still present in contemporary automotive design.

Celebrities and Influencers Behind the Wheel

Aside from the women working within the automotive sector, countless women promote the industry from a hobbyist and enthusiast perspective! From social media influencers to stars and celebrities behind the wheel, any notoriety helps automotive culture expand beyond its presumed male demographics.

In this section, we’re covering the women who promote car culture from behind the wheel.

Janis Joplin

While most know Janis Joplin for her untimely death, counterculture persona, and political lyricism, she also held a passion for the automobile and everything it allowed. 

Though Joplin expressed her disdain for materialism in songs like “Mercedes Benz,” she was no stranger to the open road. Several of Joplin’s lyrics were inspired by her time on the road while moonlighting as a truck driver!

Jessi Combs

American racer, TV personality, and fabricator Jessi Combs dove deep into the male-dominated industry where few women had before. The self-proclaimed risk-taker never feared her time behind the wheel, becoming the “fastest woman on wheels” in 2013 by setting the women's land speed record and again in 2016 after breaking her previous record. Unfortunately, Comb’s life was cut short in an accident in 2019 during another record-breaking attempt, though her legacy lives on. 

Combs is immortalized through her work, fearless demeanor, and various television hosting positions on Extreme 4x4, Overhaulin’, Mythbusters, and All Girl Garage.

Lady Gaga

Though best known for her award-winning pop music and celebrity status, Lady Gaga, born Stefani Germanotta, has a surprisingly packed garage! On numerous occasions, paparazzi have spotted Germanotta behind the wheel of her pristine Vermillion Red 1993 Ford F-150 Lightning, 1967 Ford Bronco, and 1970 Chevrolet El Camino!

Miranda Lambert

When award-winning country artist Miranda Lambert isn’t recording or touring, she can be found behind the wheel of her classic 1955 Chevy Stepside, nicknamed Tammy. The musician also had a brand partnership with RAM in 2015, in which she featured a RAM 1500 in the music video for her song “Roots and Wings.”

Sydney Sweeney

In 2024, few stars are more recognizable than actress Sydney Sweeney, best known for her roles in Euphoria, Madame Web, The White Lotus, and more! While you likely know her from one of her films or hit shows, you may not be familiar with Sweeney’s affinity for cars! 

In a recent partnership with Ebay Motors, Sweeney restored her uncut 1967 Ford Bronco – her long-time dream car. Her garage also includes a powder blue 1965 Ford Mustang!

Women In the Real

If engineers and celebrities feel too out of touch, check out RealTruck’s Women In the Real! Our features include one-on-one interviews with influencers and enthusiasts, ranging from professional racer Hailey Deegan to hunting and camping content creators! 

This Women’s History Month, join us in honoring the women who bring their trucks to life. And if you’re looking for the perfect accessory for the women in your life, don’t forget to contact the experts and browse our extensive catalog!

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