25 March 2016

The International Women's Automotive Society is Revving Engines Worldwide

Throughout her schooling and career, Victoria Ellis had never met another woman working in the automotive industry, but in November 2011, everything changed. Being featured in Diesel Power Magazine for her accomplishments in the diesel industry, along with three other women, sparked a flame within Ellis — she realized that she was not alone.

Ellis has worked various jobs within the industry: everything from parts sales to engine building, fabrication, working as a diesel technician and even building nationally recognized programs for Mopar. Today, she specializes in Cummins and VM Diesel engines and works as the Diesel Skill Area Lead for Chrysler Technical Assistance (FCA US LLC).

“I have such a love and appreciation for vehicles, there is not much that I don’t like,” she said. Ellis’s current baby is her 1997 Ford F350 diesel dually. “Hopefully after I find a house I will be able to start doing some serious work to her,” she said with excitement, “I want to slam it, and I think all of the fabrication would be an incredible experience that I would undoubtedly enjoy.”

Ellis is not the type of gal who feeds into the notion of being a woman in a man’s world. “I think the less attention we give the topic, the less of an oddity it will become,” she explained, “I work side by side with technicians every day, and I think there are more opportunities than challenges for women in the industry. People’s way of thinking is evolving and the more we move forward in the industry, the less of a topic of interest it will become. It will be the norm, and the world will be onto something else.”

Whether at her job or in projects at home, Ellis strives to help other women achieve their goals within the industry — to be the support helping them on a bad day and guiding them to their future. And that is how the International Women’s Automotive Society (IWAS) was formed.

The IWAS was officially established in 2014, although it has existed informally since 2013. It is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization driven by passion, with a goal of developing a well-rounded community for women. Their website offers a multitude of continuously expanding resources but the biggest benefit offered is something that can’t be found on Google: The support system and references from members. For example, if a girl is looking into schools, the IWAS can coach them on what to look for and give first-hand insight on what schooling will entail. “It’s a family with the most incredible support system I have ever seen, because let’s face it, girls aren’t always the nicest,” adding, “I think the best part of our organization is seeing the girls interact and their enthusiasm for helping each other succeed within the industry.”

The organization has hosted several educational events highlighting many different areas within the industry. “Truthfully, a success for me is being able to help a female looking to start her career by giving her the support, resources, and advice she needs,” Ellis said. Often the organization is also able to match a girl with a mentor to share in the experience by helping with any struggles and celebrating successes.

According to Ellis, the biggest challenge is working worldwide. “We work in three countries, so it’s difficult to get everyone in the same place at the same time,” she said.

A promising future awaits the International Women’s Automotive Society and its members. Plans include arranging school seminars to talk to kids and show girls how fun the industry is. Nowadays, finding a good technician is not easy, so stoking young minds with passion and giving them the tools they’ll need in the industry will elevate the industry as a whole. As Ellis reminds us all, “Let’s face it, the younger generations will be the ones creating the Hellcats and Mustangs of the future that we’ll be driving!”

To learn more about the International Women’s Automotive Society, visit their web page: http://www.womenofautomotive.com/

5 Reader Comments

  • 1
    Steve "Psycho" Parker Appleton, WIn March 28, 2016 at 11:43
    I have been going to the track since I was 4 years old. That's 45 years. I know I'm aging myself. Throughout the years we've had many pleople that can and when. Still raving in my family is myself (psycho), my brother Mike Parker, my sister Amy Bielak, my brother law Eddie Bielak, and a whole slew of friends. Racing with family and friends is more then I could ever ask for...oh yeah. This is for Todd Rhineschmidt: "DOOR CARS RULE!!!" How's that Mr. Rhineschmidt?!?!
  • 2
    Scott In the Ether March 30, 2016 at 17:57
    When I was young in the 1960s, we would go to a dirt track on Long Island where they also had demolition derbies. During one the races there was a woman driver. We boys hung out by the fence and yelled things like "Girls can't drive!" After yelling at this woman, a woman found us and started asking why we were yelling at this woman. Of course being young boys, we were being irrational but this woman persisted. In the next heat of the day (after the demolition derby), we were rooting for the woman driver. I don't remember who the woman driver was, but the woman who stood there to teach us rambunctious 8 year-olds that women can race gave us autographed pictures of her next to her car. It was a cool car because the woman was Shirley "Cha-Cha" Muldowney! I was living in Georgia in 1981, before her accident, and told her how we met in 1968. Obviously she didn't remember the incident but was amused. I don't remember if she won that day but she never made me doubt that a woman could drive. Today, I cringe when these guys talk about the current woman on the circuit. I will root for Danica Patrick, Courtney Force, and Leilani Munter just so those guys can be peeved they lost to a girl!!
  • 3
    CJ Madson California Car Country March 31, 2016 at 14:19
    Super coverage, Tara -- and we need to be inclusive and supportive of all people who are interested in things automotive. There are some top-notch photographers, drivers, designers and wrenchers out there who just happen to be female. And considering how many cars are bought by women, they should be a big part of the whole development, design, manufacturing and sales process too. (We already know who rocks the Ring Taxi.)
  • 4
    apl USA March 31, 2016 at 18:58
    Ms. Ellis can do more than many guys I know. Hopefully she can show other girls and women that there are other careers that they can pursue if they want to.
  • 5
    Michel Lamoureux Montreal, Canada March 31, 2016 at 07:55
    Great piece, once again, Tara. Didn't know about this organization. Learned something important as a result. More women judges needed at Concours d'Elegance too. A cause dear to my heart. Read you soon!

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