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Chicago Auto Show’s Sixth Annual ‘What Drives Her’ Networking Event and Awards Program To Be Held Feb. 10, Finalists Announced

Chicago Auto Show organizers, in partnership with A Girls Guide to Cars and Women in Automotive, are proud to announce the sixth annual What Drives Her networking event and awards program during the show’s Media Preview on Friday, Feb. 10 at McCormick Place.

Once again bringing together influential women in the automotive industry, this year’s event will focus on the ways women are leading the charge in the electric vehicle (EV) revolution. In addition, the What Drives Her awards program will recognize females and advocates within the industry. 

“It has been wonderful to see this event grow over the last six years and how it continues to expand the recognition and awareness we are bringing to the powerful women who are positively shaping the auto industry,” said Kelly Webb Roberts, vice chairwomen of the Chicago Automobile Trade Association, producer of the Chicago Auto Show. 

“The sheer number of award nominations and the variety of people nominated was stunning this year,” said A Girls Guide to Cars Founder and What Drives Her Co-Founder Scotty Reiss. “It shows that the effort to bring new and diverse people into the auto industry is a shared value, and that there are a lot of really great people leading our industry.”

The event will open with a panel discussion on the topic of women behind the EV revolution moderated by’s VP, Cars Media Solutions, Julie Scott. Speakers on this panel will include Chris Feuell, Chrysler brand CEO; Kathy Gilbert, CDK Global senior director, minority dealer and women retail; Melissa Washington, ComEd SVP of customer operations; and Linda White, BMW director of government and external affairs. 

Event organizers reintroduced the What Drives Her awards to recognize and applaud outstanding females and advocates in the industry. Nominations have been submitted from individuals within the industry ranging from auto manufacturers, suppliers, media and dealers. The panel of distinguished jurors are made up of female automotive journalists.

The finalists have now been selected for the following categories.

Rising Star: Employed by an automaker, auto retailer or core automotive supplier; job title no higher than vice president; works primarily in North America; she may be notable for her empowerment of others, her breaking down of barriers that allows others to follow, her pursuit of non-traditional roles or jobs, her leadership, and taking on additional roles such as leading an employee resource group or mentoring program.

Natasha Adams, mechanic, YouTube and Instagram influencer
Shauna Sichi, General Motors West Communications
Crystal Windham, executive director, global industrial design, General Motors

Other nominees include Sylvia Lopez-Navarro, national manager, brand experience, corporate events and shows, Kia America; and Shelley Pratt, director of marketing communications and media, Infiniti USA.

Best In Craft Media: Employed as a fulltime or parttime North American journalist, content creator or media with a focus on the automotive industry; demonstrate general excellence of craft; create work that illuminates the role of women in the automotive industry or, through voice and narrative, create more accessible automotive information and more inclusive automotive storytelling.

Emme Hall, freelance
Elana Scherr, Car and Driver
Kristin Shaw, freelance

Other nominees include Elizabeth Blackstock, Jalopnik, freelance writer, author; Teia Collier, Dallas Single Parent, freelance; Eileen Falkenburg-Hull, Newsweek; Lauren Fix, The Car Coach; Lillie Morales, writer, photographer, Jersey Fashionista, Femme Drive, freelance; Elizabeth St. John, TheCarMom, TheCarPool Podcast; and Dawn Thigpen-Gibson, Sassy Auto Chick, Femme Drive.

Automotive Ally: A new award for What Drives Her this year, the Automotive Ally Award recognizes an individual who offers continual support, coaching, advocacy, education and understanding, helping to create opportunities for others as they build their careers in automotive. This award is open to any executive, leader, manager or other person inside or outside the automotive industry and reflects the impact that this person has on the industry, for both individuals and organizations.

Emily Miller, founder, Rebelle Rally
Jennifer Newman, editor-in-chief,
Wendy Orthman, executive director, marketing, Genesis

Other nominees include Nena Barlow, founder, Barlow Adventures; Elgie Bright, chair, automotive marketing and management, Northwood University; Dean Case, communications consultant, Motivo Engineering; Julie Conlin, senior content and communications specialist, Continental Tire; Deborah Grieb, market research manager, AutoPacific; Cheryl Thompson, CEO and founder, Center for Automotive Diversity, Inclusion and Advancement; Nicole Santana, account director, The Axis Agency; and Sabrina Yuan, VP strategy, Cariad by VW.

Best Retailer: Employed by a Chicago-area dealership, this person demonstrates a high level of commitment and drive to any task at hand, whether that’s in sales, service or technical support.

Gabrielle Abinion, general manager, Fox Valley Volkswagen
Soledad Romero, store manager, Romeoville Toyota
Carly Weck, finance manager, Elgin Kia

Other nominees include Christina Baker, dealer partner, Rod Baker Ford; Linda Jacobs, dealer principal, Bill Jacobs Motorsport; Tina Pade, controller, Arlington Toyota; and Danielle West, HR director/operations manager, Fox Valley Volkswagen Buick-GMC.

The awards will be presented during the Chicago Auto Show’s Media Preview during a pastry and coffee reception the morning of Friday, Feb. 10 from 8-9:30 a.m. at the main stage in the Grand Concourse lobby, just outside of the North Hall. Pre-registration for What Drives Her on Friday, Feb. 10 is required. Please click here to register. Attendees are encouraged to use event hashtag #WhatDrivesHer when posting on social media.

The What Drives Her program and awards will be livestreamed, courtesy of Reuters Events Automotive. You can watch live at this link:

Event sponsors include and CDK Global.

For more information on the 2023 Chicago Auto Show, visit Media can visit for more information or to register for media credentials.

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