International Women's Day 2021: Australian women of the automotive industry
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Today we celebrate the 110th International Women's Day. This year's theme is #ChooseToChallenge – a challenged world is an alert world and from challenge comes change.

Women have been making a mark in the automotive industry for a long time now, dating all the way back to 1888.

This was the year Bertha Benz became the first person in history to drive an automobile over a long distance, in turn producing the first sales for Benz Patent-Motorwagen.

Features we use on an every day basis were in fact, designed by women. In 1893 Margaret A. Wilcox invented the first car heater, in 1914 Florence Lawrence created the turn signal, while Dr Gladys West developed the basis for the GPS in 1956.

Fast forward to 2014, the year the first CEO of automotive appointed – Mary T. Barra, General Motors.

This year at CarAdvice we are recognising women who have achieved greatness in the automotive sector in Australia.

There are many of you out there and today more than ever we applaud you all on your great achievements so far.

Here are three women we have chosen to shine a spotlight on in 2021:

Eleni Mitakos – Founder Galmatic

Eleni bought her first FE Holden when she was 16. Fabulous and almost 50 she is a trainer by trade and owns Galmatic, a ladies-only workshop and online program.

How did the name come about? Simply. It's not systematic, it's not hydromatic, it's Galmatic. You may have heard that phrase before if you've seen the movie Grease.

The concept all came about after discussions with fellow women. Eleni would tell others of how she worked on her 50's car with ease and conducted her own oil top ups and tyre changes. With women in awe having not even popped their bonnets, she realised she could teach others how to undertake such tasks.

Eleni started a How-to handbook which attracted a lot of media attention. While parents seemed to be the main market purchasing these for their teenagers they insisted she start up workshops.

Fast forward 14 years and Galmatic now teach school incursions and approximately 100,000 kids a year.

All of the crew are female and kitted out in navy work shirts and red bandana's to hark back to Rosie the Riveter days of WWII where women rolled up their sleeves and picked up what was traditionally men's work.

At their in-school excursions the ladies apply what was written in the highly sought after handbook so that teenagers learn the basics from a young age – from popping bonnets, to changing a tyre. The handbook has now been converted into an online course and an i-pad app.

Galmatic also conduct public workshops which they call a 'ten minute servo check' again teaching people how to do the basics with your car.

Eleni's role enables her to bring awareness to young women – luckily, little is needed as this younger generation already possess a very healthy perception. Instead of asking the typical questions like "what's it like being in a male-dominated industry?" girls are asking things like "wow, how do you run you own business?"

So what is her advice to females wanting to get into the industry? Eleni recommends thinking of your personal brand early on, finding your niche and specialising in it – just like she did with Galmatic.

"We went for the '50s retro because it made us stand out, no one else was doing it and people want to put us in the media because we tick all the boxes. We are women, we are fun and cool."

"Don't look at it as a drag strip look at it as a track. You're going to go through that start lane a thousand times but ever time you go around you're going to get to know the curbs and the track better, you're going to get better, faster and quicker and thats what your journey in the automotive industry will be like. Do your laps, you're not going to get it done in the quarter mile."

A 2020 Telstra Business of the Year Finalist, Eleni is doing brilliant things and we congratulate her on her achievements in the industry.

Frances Palmer – Group Manager, Brand Management

"You have so much to offer as a female in this industry – it's your different life experiences and it's the different perspective you can offer that your male counterparts cannot, and you shouldn't try and be one of them. As a female in the automotive industry, you have so many unique things to offer and you should really leverage that. With each of my roles along my career journey, I've been able to add value – being a female has never inhibited my development or opportunities."

A brilliant piece of advice from an inspiring woman who has had quite the journey in the automotive industry. Her knowledge of this industry wasn't extensive before she entered the world, however, visiting motor shows and watching Bathurst from a young age certainly sparked her interest.

Frances had a passion for Maths, Graphics and Physics in high school so it made sense that she ended up in a course which combined mechanical and industrial design.

While at uni Frances scored a scholarship with Autoliv Australia, aimed at encouraging women in manufacturing. As an industrial engineer she worked on the continuous improvement of manufacturing production lines for Holden, Toyota and Mitsubishi driver airbags. This was all conducted during her uni holidays, and Industry Based Learning Year.

After the car industry took a turn, she tried her hand in the agricultural industry, in the design and engineering of horticulture and viticulture farm machinery. While in this role Frances continued to go back to her automotive roots often using design cues inspired by the automotive industry. In fact, one of her designs was based on the Volvo C30.

Jumping back into automotive, her next role was with Nissan Australia as a Senior Engineer where she engineered accessories for a range of vehicles. From bluetooth to satellite navigation, Frances was responsible for enhancing the experience for the driver.

Currently enjoying the challenge of Brand Management at Bapcor, she really has had a glimpse into all aspects of the industry.

What's perhaps been most satisfying about her job in this industry is seeing her work come to life.

"You may work on a project for 12 months, whatever it may be – then you're driving down the Eastern freeway and will see the results on a car driving past."

During her time with Nissan Australia, Frances participated in a car of the future design competition, and was one of the winners, which earned her the chance to present her concept to Nissan’s Senior vice president for Global Design.

With so much depth and richness to the automotive industry Frances encourages women to find their passion, to apply themselves and not lose sight of what it is they want to do.

"Don't let others decide your future for you. You have the power to choose."

There's no doubting her talent and we applaud her for the outstanding success she has had thus far.

Ashley Beeby – Heavy Commercial Vehicle Mechanic & Diesel Fitter

Ashley Beeby has already achieved so much at 21 years of age. A diesel mechanic by trade, she actually fell into the industry by accident.

When Cummins presented their work experience offerings at her school, Ashley thought she'd try it out as a part of her Year 10 curriculum. Little did she know that this decision would shape the next seven years of her life.

Throughout her work experience Ashley worked on the engines of trucks – diagnostics and repairs. Apprehensive at first at the thought of handling trucks instead of cars, Ashley excelled and even signed up to Automotive studies in VCE as a subject.

While others were planning their preferences and university selections, Ashley was already set with a job guaranteed with Cummins even before the end of the school year.

During her apprenticeship she was the only female and by the time she left the workshop years later that number had only increased to four. Her belief is that not only is it a challenge to find women interested in this field but there also needs to be more awareness so that females know what is available to them.

"Once they are in, they are more than capable. It's just about getting them started."

Ashley encourages women to give it a go. Smaller in stature, she's had her own obstacles. With this came the added challenge of having to carry out her job differently. She had to learn how to use her own body weight to carry out certain tasks and in many cases didn't have the upper body strength. This has never stopped her.

Ashley's day to day comprises of the stripping, cleaning and rebuilding of engines. She's just recently made the step to earth moving equipment with BMA, now carrying the title of Diesel Fitter.

Ashley is a current nominee for Women in Automotive member if the month. We wish her luck and of course congratulate her on what she's managed to achieve at such a young age.