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Chicago Auto Show organizers, in partnership with A Girls Guide to Cars and Women in Automotive and sponsored by CDK Global, held the fifth What Drives Her program during the show's Media Preview on Friday, Feb. 11. Influential women from across the country came together for an award recognition ceremony to highlight women in three different categories: Rising Star, Best in Craft Media and Best Retailer. Over the years, the event has welcomed dozens of leading female professionals to the stage to share trends, stories and personal anecdotes of the integral role that women hold in the auto industry. 2022 marked the first-ever award ceremony tied to the event.

The 2022 winners for each category are as follows:

Rising Star Manufacturer Award
Linda Zhang, Ford F-150 Lightning chief engineer, was the recipient of the 2022 Rising Star Award. Pickup trucks represent the tipping point in the shift to EVs, and the electrification of the F-150 was extremely important to Ford. As the chief engineer charged with leading the company's next era of vehicles, Linda Zhang and her team developed the F-150 Lightning electric pickup truck. The F-150 Lightning encompasses the possibilities of electrification, the necessities of F-150 utility and the needs that customers have, in pickup trucks as well as all vehicles. Linda's strength and brilliance show in her passion for her work, inspiring her team, her company and her industry.

“It’s an honor to be the recipient of the Rising Star award, representing our amazing Ford team and portfolio of products and services,” said Zhang. “It has been a pleasure to lead the F-150 Lightning team, who has been working diligently on Ford’s first ever all-electric truck, which will be delivered to customers this spring.”

Rising Star finalists included: Lisa Matarazzo, vice president of Toyota Division Marketing at Toyota Motor North America; La Shirl Turner, head of advanced color and materials design, Stellantis; and Dana White, Hyundai chief communications officer.

Best in Craft Media Award
Sue Mead, freelance writer and off-roading champion, won the Best in Craft Media Award. Mead was recognized publicly as a "tireless champion for women, not only talking the talk but walking the walk. She has taken on tough challenges in automotive her whole life, and she's such an encouraging, supporting person," according to the nomination.

Mead's granddaughter witnessed her grandmother receiving this award, something Mead hopes her granddaughter will remember as she grows and continues to pursue her dreams, whether that's within or outside of the auto industry. 

"It was one of the best days of my life! Truly!" Mead says of winning the What Drives Her Best in Craft Award. "Winning the What Drives Her media award was such an honor and having my eight-year-old granddaughter, Eve Marion Judge, with me to watch and participate will always be savored by me and remembered by her. I was in the running with a number of top female journalists in the country and among four finalists-Jill Ciminillo, Tanya Gazdik and Elana Scherr. That made me think a lot about their talents and, when I won, each made me feel cherished; how amazing is that?" Mead said.

"A Girls Guide to Cars and the Chicago Auto Show put on a very special event that honored women in our industry," Mead continued. "There were so many colleagues, both women and men, that attended and who appreciate so much where our industry is today-it is far different from when I started 34 years ago. What many don't know is that we work in a field where colleagues become our best friends and often collaborate in deeply companionable ways; we truly support each other."

Best in Craft Media finalists included: Jill Ciminillo, managing editor, Pickup Truck + SUV Talk; Tanya Gazdik, automotive editor, MediaPost; and Elana Scherr, senior editor, Car and Driver.

Best Retailer Award
Megan Deters, sales manager at Brilliance Honda, was the recipient of the Best Retailer Award. To qualify, this individual must be employed by a Chicago-area dealership and demonstrates a high level of commitment and drive to any task at hand, whether that's in sales, service or technical support.

"Megan has worked her way up in this business through hard work, talent and compassion for Brilliance Honda customers," said Kevin Keefe, owner of Brilliance Honda, who nominated Deters for the award. "One of the faces of Brilliance Honda, Megan is an incredible retailer and one with world class customer satisfaction skills. She brings a positive outlook every day to work and it is contagious amongst the team."

Deters is one of three females in the Brilliance Honda sales department. She learned, over time, that many customers prefer to speak with her over her male colleagues when making a purchase decision. Deters believes it's likely because they feel less pressure when dealing with a woman, especially if it's a female customer.

"When I began selling cars, I didn't realize how unusual it was to see other women within the industry," Deters commented. "I knew being a female in this industry would present new challenges every single day, and that's the environment that would allow me to grow."

"Recognizing the women who are changing the automotive industry from the inside helps open doors for those who want to follow," said Scotty Reiss, founder of A Girls Guide to Cars and board member of Women in Automotive. "These rising stars are lighting the way for others to build the fun, passion-driven and rewarding career of their dreams."

"We are proud to continue our partnership and support of the What Drives Her event at this year's Chicago Auto Show," said Kathy Gilbert, senior director, Minority Dealer and Women Retail, CDK Global. "Our focus at CDK is to help connect the automotive industry and create a future that embraces equal representation and access for everyone. With a strong, inclusive workforce, we can collectively drive the innovation our industry needs to meet the rapidly evolving consumer expectations for simple and convenient car-buying and ownership experiences."

Nominations were submitted from a variety of women within the industry ranging from auto manufacturers, suppliers, media and dealers. Distinguished jurors included women like Lauren Fix, The Car Coach; Sharon Carty, Car and Driver; Stephanie Brinley, IHS Markit; Kristin Shaw, The Drive; Jennifer Newman,; Nicole Wakelin, Boston Globe; Carly Schaffner, Forbes Wheels; Cherise Threewitt, U.S. News & World Report; among other notable jurors.

For more information on the Chicago Auto Show, visit

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