All Real Estate Agents Can Learn a Thing or Two From These Female Pioneers
After Mary Barra was elected the first female CEO of General Motors in 2014, the auto industry saw a major shift, one that was overdue, in senior and C-suite positions. Up to that point, most of these positions were not held by women, but Barra set a new standard and broke down that barrier. Too often, womens’ contributions are thrown to the wayside, but in the automotive world, women have made some of the most impactful innovations that are still used today. In honor of Women’s History Month, we’ve compiled a list of some of the most innovative females in the automotive industry and key takeaways you can utilize in your real estate career.
Meet the Pioneers
Margaret Wilcox : b. 1838
Born in Chicago in 1838, Margert Wilcox became a mechanical engineer in a time when few women were given the opportunity to do so. Living in the Windy City, Wilcox had to face the harsh winters on her commute. She used her engineering prowess and came up with a way of passing air through the engine to heat the car, leading to a patent granted on Nov. 23, 1893. Today, drivers suffering in cold commutes who reach for their heater can thank Margaret Wilcox. Wilcox didn’t stop there. She became an iconic inventor, receiving patents for bake pans, clothes washers, and a dishwasher.
Bertha Benz: 1849 - 1944
Bertha was more than just the wife of Karl Benz, inventor of the first automobile, and ultimately half of the namesake for the automobile icon, the Mercedes Benz. Bertha Benz is best known for taking the original Patentwagen for a 66-mile family drive as a marketing idea to draw public attention. Benz was truly the first test driver for the automobile. Along the way, she made a number of repairs and revisions that helped the open-air vehicle run more efficiently. These revisions include a covering for the wood brakes using leather pads, utilizing her garter as an insulation material for the fuel line, and she developed an evaporative cooling system to help cool the engine. She also helped fund Karl Benz’s manufacturing venture and generate publicity. Bertha Benz was inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame in 2016.
Mary Anderson: 1866 - 1953
Starting out as a rancher and real estate developer, Mary Anderson was an early fan of the automobile. While driving, Anderson grew tired of having to cope with the elements, especially rain. So, she decided to do something about it. On Nov. 10, 1903, Anderson received a groundbreaking U.S. patent for the first “automotive car window cleaning device controlled from inside the car.” Today, we call it the windshield wiper.
Helene Rother: 1908 - 1999
Helene Rother started her career as a fashion designer. Born in Germany, she first went to Paris to work on hat pins and later worked on furniture, jewelry, stained glass windows, and even comic books, working for a time at Marvel Comics. After fleeing Germany in 1941, she was hired as the first female automotive designer, joining the interior styling team for General Motors in Detroit. Eventually, she left to form her own studio. Helene Rother became just the sixth woman to be inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame in 2020.
Shirley Muldowney 1940 - Present
Known professionally as "Cha Cha" and the "First Lady of Drag Racing", Shirley Muldowney was the first woman licensed to drive a Top Fuel dragster. She went on to win three National Hotrod Association World Championships in 1977, 1980, and 1982. Muldowney faced plenty of skeptics during her long career, ultimately proving she could take on the best as one of the most formidable figures in drag racing. “[The National Hot Rod Association] fought me every inch of the way, but when they saw how a girl could fill the stands; they saw I was good for the sport,” Muldowney said when she was inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame in 2005.
Key Takeaways From These Female Auto Pioneers
All of these women personify entrepreneurship: They had a problem in their lives or pursuits they aspired for and created ways to either solve their problems or reach their goals. These women showed what is possible with some ingenuity and elbow grease. To accomplish their feats in times with even greater inequality between the sexes is no small accomplishment.
Beyond the usual advice of being persistent and having fortitude, it’s important to find the takeaways from influential women like these. Use their lives and accomplishments as inspiration for both your real estate career and your personal development:
- If there’s a problem, solve it!
- Work smarter, not harder.
- Lead with empathy.
- A strong work ethic outlasts flash-in-the-pan talent.
- Above all, be confident in yourself.