Article provided by Eve Pearce - Writer and Journalist
Female inventors have been making their mark in the automotive industry since long before the likes of Henry Ford burst onto the scene in the early twentieth century. Little-known to the majority of people, women were responsible for many vehicle features that remain essential to the modern day driving experience. Who knew that windscreen wipers were invented by a woman? In fact, Mary Anderson, from Alabama, applied for a patent in 1903 after she noticed drivers in New York having to open their windows in order to see during the rain. Less than 15 years later, windscreen wipers were standard on most vehicles all over the world.
Another female inventor was Helen Blair Bartlett, who dreamed up the simple invention of a spark plug. Then there was Marion Donovan, who was the first person to think of installing a cup-holder in a vehicle.
Fast-forward to the present day, and the influence of women in the automotive world is particularly pertinent. At General Motors, one of the world’s largest automotive manufacturers, Mary Barra is tipped to run the company when current chief executive, Dan Akerson, steps down. Also, in Formula One, Maria de Villota became the world’s first female test driver, after racing company, Marussia, signed her up.
What about car design though? Claiming the invention or design of an entire vehicle is something women have not yet been able to mark history with. In 2004, they came close; Volvo unveiled a concept car at the Geneva Motor Show that was “designed by women for women”. However, the car never made production and was thought by the female public, at the time, as being nothing more than a marketing gimmick.
High Gear, high impact
Now things might be about to change. A car with real street cred – the 2013 Ford Mustang GT High Gear SEMA Car – has been designed by a woman. Jennifer Seely won a nationwide competition ran by Ford to design the first ever SEMA Mustang. Inspired by jewellery, fashion and architecture, Seely’s Mustang is an invention like no other in the automotive industry. Known as ‘High Gear’, the car was designed to stimulate all senses by creating a fusion of power and luxury. It features satin black body paint, Rosegold chrome accents and quilted suede seats. However, the car doesn’t just feature cosmetic advances; it also comes with state of the art modifications to its engine, under carriage, drive train and sound system.
The build of the concept car is taking place throughout the summer by a team of female experts at the headquarters of Source Interlink Media in El Segundo, California, USA. The build will involve assembling all car parts, modifying the vehicle and carrying out the paint job. Anyone looking to buy cars on finance may have a long wait for this vehicle, though; the finished design is not expected to go into mass production. However, the car is instead going to be put to public auction to raise money for the SEMA Memorial Scholarship Fund.
The finished car will be unveiled at the SEMA show in Las Vegas, Nevada, which takes place between the 30th October and the 2nd November.
It is actions like the above that are moving the automotive industry forward for women. There are already a host of other services and business inventions in the industry that have been tailored to women, for example, there are businesses offering female car care training after consistent surveys have found that women feel patronised in garages and car show rooms, and are leaving car servicing and buying duties to men. There are also a whole host of female-specific car loan companies and vehicle insurers in existence. Women looking for guaranteed car finance can also expect to receive tailored deals through specially-formed companies, as the industry seeks to make the automotive world as accessible for women as it is for men. Men aren’t born with a car gene; however they have always had more access and exposure to cars, perhaps through working on the family cars with their dads in the garage.
This current generation of female automotive inventors and entrepreneurs has a duty to inspire the entire population and take advantage of the many opportunities that are available to them in this sector. It is these influential female inventors that will go on to pave the way for greater equality and opportunity for the next generation of women looking to make their mark on the automotive industry.