We've all seen them. The pink stickers, the Hello Kitty accents, the in your face "I'M A GIRL AND I BUILT THIS" attitude. Women have been an important part of the automotive and motorsports industries for years, both for good and for bad. Now, hear me out before you get mad. Not very long ago, women were relegated to one purpose in the automotive industry: Selling cars. It didn't take savvy marketing teams long to figure out that the appeal of a car could be boosted simply by putting a pretty (and sometimes scantily clad) woman in front of it.
1946 Buick ad featuring a smiling woman and lots of chrome - That's all you need.
After WW2, as automobiles moved forward with technology and a class of luxury cars was established in America (Buick, Lincoln, and Cadillac to name a few), automakers didn't just sell the car. They sold the lifestyle associated with the car. The fun and fancy free successful man with a beautiful woman by his side... A playboy, if you will. Americans were enjoying a time of peace and national pride after winning the war, and more people than ever were buying homes and cars. Advertising agencies were quick to tap into this market to sell products and make millions. There was, however, a wildcard: Women in industry. During the war, women had been called from the home to work in factories, doing work that had often been thought of as "men's" work. While some women returned to domestic duties once the war was over, many decided that they liked being employed, they liked their jobs and... They liked getting dirty.
A woman checks the oil on an army truck in a photo from c1944
Automotive companies were surprisingly quick to adopt the idea of women in the industry. GM recognized that women held an invaluable perspective on interior trim, layout, and materials, and in the 1950s the college-educated "Damsels of Design" worked on hundreds of GM products. Women began to trickle deeper and deeper into the automotive industry: working on assembly lines, driving race cars, working in design, and managing marketing teams. Women evolved from a novelty in the field to being serious innovators and respected colleagues.
Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors. The first female CEO of a major automotive corporation.
In today's world of social media, instant information, and instant opinion, women have more accessibility than ever to the auto industry. SEMA recognized that and, in 1993, launched the SEMA Businesswomen's Network to give women a place to connect with other women in their own niche of the male-dominated industry. However, all of this forward progress has not been without its fair share of negativity. The saying "Girls have to know twice as much to get half the respect" still rings true on many levels, and the social media world can be absolutely vicious to women. A strong opinion makes you a bitch, a question or incorrect statement makes you a dumb bitch. Sadly, most of the insult slinging and negativity comes from other women. Women are quick to attack each other over everything from the brand of shocks on a car to a sticker on the back window.
Female Built seeks to be a safe haven from the negativity. We are women who love cars, and who bond over our common passion. We seek to provide praise and recognition to those in the industry who are making the same forward progress that those WW2 factory workers made in their time. We hope you enjoy our content, and if you know a woman who you would like for us to feature, please let us know!