Despite ideas of equality, the fact remains that the key figures in the history of the automotive industry have been predominantly male. From Henry Ford to Elon Musk, you could be forgiven for thinking that all the great motoring innovators have been men.
And yet the truth is that women have been involved in designing cars from the very earliest days of the 20th century, with increasing numbers of female visionaries making a name for themselves in the world of car manufacturing.
Macho motoring men may even be surprised to learn that some of the most pioneering cars of recent years were designed, at least in part, by women – with many companies turning to the fairer sex in a bid to try and create the perfect vehicle for their female customers.
20 BMW Z4
At first glance, the BMW Z4 looks like a stereotypical sports car – the kind of vehicle that men dream of driving. However, the truth is that this stylish roadster is the creation of two women; Juliane Blasi, who was responsible for the exterior design and her colleague Nadya Arnaout, who designed the interior of the car.
19 Ford F-150
There is only one type of vehicle more macho than a sports car and that’s the good old-fashioned American pickup truck. The most iconic and best-selling pickup of all time, the Ford F-150, enjoyed the feminine touch between 2012 and 2014 when Jackie DiMarco was the chief engineer on the vehicle.
18 Chrysler Pacifica
Minivans are not always known for their style, but the 2017 Chrysler Pacific bucked that trend and won many accolades for its elegant appearance. And this design revolution was all thanks to Irina Zavatski, a graduate of the Cleveland Institute of Art who made the move into the automotive industry.
17 Acura NSX
The Acura NSX is probably one of the most expensive cars on this list, and the powerful sports car, marketed as the Honda NSX in the rest of the world, was first built between 1990 and 2005. When the company relaunched the vehicle in 2016, they turned to Michelle Christensen, who had worked for Acura since 2005 and was the company’s first female exterior designer.
16 Nissan Titan
The Nissan Titan is another beefy full-size pickup truck which drivers might be surprised to learn was designed by a woman. Diane Allen, the brains behind the Nissan 350Z, designed the first Titan in 2002 and was just as involved when the vehicle was given a radical and stylish re-design in 2015.
15 Corvette Stingray
The ultimate American sports car, the Chevy Corvette is as much a part of US automotive history as any vehicle; and yet the designer of the seventh-generation Corvette Stingray is not just a woman, but a British woman at that! Helen Elmsley, who started working for General Motors in 1993, was responsible for the iconic vehicle’s interior.
14 Ford Probe
When it comes to female automotive designers, perhaps the most influential is Mimi Vandermolen who was hired by Ford in 1970, and who was responsible for the radical redesign of a number of Ford vehicles in the 1980s and 1990s, including the Ford Probe, a two-door coupe which first rolled off the production line in 1988.
13 Renault Scenic
Anita Dahlgren is one of the Heads of Design at French automotive company Renault and has been responsible for the creation of a number of their successful vehicles over the years, including the Megane family car, the Kadjar SUV and the best-selling Renault Scenic MPV. Dahlgren was even named Woman of the Year in 2016 by Women And Vehicles in Europe (WAVE).
12 Galloway 10/20
One of the earliest women to make a name for herself in the automotive world was Dorothée Pullinger, who trained as an engineer under her father at his own car factory, before working for Vickers during the First World War. She later created the very first car designed for women drivers, the Galloway 10/20 which was based on the Fiat 501.
11 Toyota FT-1
Unveiled at the 2014 North American Motor Show, the Toyota FT-1 concept car has created quite a buzz. This sleek and sophisticated sports car even secured a starring role in the successful video game Gran Turismo, and Wendy Lee was the genius behind the stylish interior of the eye-catching vehicle.
10 Nash 600
Like Dorothée Pullinger, Helene Rother was another trail-blazer when it came to women in the automotive industry. Rother worked for General Motors between 1943 and 1948 when she made the move to Nash Motors and was given sole responsibility for the design of the Nash 600 sedan – named for the fact that it could travel 600 miles on one tank of gas.
9 Volvo YCC
The Volvo YCC (Your Concept Car) was created for the 2004 Geneva Motor Show and was designed by a team of all-female designers with the aim of meeting the needs of women drivers. The sporty luxury car was designed by project managers Maria Widell Christiansen and Camilla Palmertz, along with a number of female colleagues.
8 BMW 3-Series
Female automotive designers work on both the exterior and interior of modern vehicles, with some specializing exclusively in aspects of design like the seat materials. This is where Sandy McGill makes her name, working for BMW ion the interior of their 3-Series cars and the 2005 BMW Mini concept car.
7 Cadillac Eldorado Seville
The Volvo team behind the YCC concept car was not the first time that an automotive company had put together an all-female team to design a new vehicle. Nicknamed the “Damsels of Design”, the team of female designers was hired by General Motors in the 1960s to bring a feminine touch to the appearance of vehicles like the Cadillac Eldorado Seville.
6 Ford Taurus
The Ford Probe wasn’t the only vehicle which was given a radical makeover by Mimi Vandermolen in the 1980s. The Dutch-born designer took the square and boxy Fords of the 1970s, like the Ford Taurus, and completely redesigned them for the 1980s, giving cars like the Taurus a more rounded bodywork and more sophisticated design.
5 Chrysler 200
Another female automotive designer who has earned an impressive reputation for her stylish interior design work is Winnie Cheung, who is the Interior Design Chief at Fiat Chrysler Autos. One of her most impressive pieces of work was the recent 2016 re-design of the interior of the Chrysler 200 sedan.
4 Nissan Rogue
Diane Allen has become a key figure at Japanese car giant Nissan, thanks to her experience and expertise in designing vehicles for a modern market. And it seems that she can turn her hand to any style of vehicle too, from the sporty Nissan 350Z to the Nissan Titan pickup truck and the Nissan Rogue family SUV.
3 Ford Mustang
Any designer would feel the sense of responsibility at being asked to help recreate the Ford Mustang when it was redesigned in 2015. The fact that the company handed responsibility for the relaunch of this iconic car to a female designer, Marcy Fisher, shows just how much the industry’s approach to women has changed.
2 Nissan 350Z
The stylish Nissan 350Z sports car was made by the Japanese automotive giant between 2002 and 2009 and was lauded for its design as well as its engineering. The design team included Diane Allen, who was the chief designer on the project when she was working at Nissan Design America in the early years of the 21st century.
1 Cadillac XTS
Art school graduate Christine Park was a senior designer for Cadillac by the time she was just 28 years of age and took on a leading role in the creation of the Cadillac XTS luxury car which was launched in 2012. Park had responsibility for designing a luxurious and opulent interior to match the stylish exterior.
Sources: Vice, Auto Wise, Renault, Auto News