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Chicago Auto Show organizers, in partnership with A Girls Guide to Cars and Women in Automotive, held the sixth What Drives Her program during the show’s Media Preview on Friday, Feb. 10. Industry leaders from across the country came together for a robust discussion and award recognition ceremony to highlight women in four different categories: Rising Star, Best in Craft Media, Automotive Ally, 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. 

This year’s program, sponsored by and CDK Global, brought female executives to the Chicago Auto Show stage to discuss “Women Leading the EV Revolution.” The panel was moderated by’s VP of Cars Media, Julie Scott, and was comprised of four panelists: 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.

“This year’s program featured a panel of women who are accomplished in their field and also incredibly inspiring,” said Jennifer Morand, co-founder of the What Drives Her program and general manager of the Chicago Auto Show. “The conversation covered a wide range of topics that helped spotlight the influence and purchasing power females have in the EV space.” 

“In addition to the breadth of themes discussed, it was a privilege to honor some of the industry’s top leaders with the What Drives Her awards,” continued Morand. 

The 2023 winners for each category are as follows:

Rising Star Award
Crystal Windham, executive director, global industrial design, General Motors,
has built a solid reputation as a change agent and decisive leader with a future focused on automotive creative design. With more than 20 years of world-class experience, she brings forward-leading practices with quick success across multiple business areas. She builds collaborative, cross-functional teams to leverage emerging technologies by bringing a customer-centric focus that can drive the aesthetic and technology vision for products and overall customer experience.

Windham was unable to attend the event; colleague Shauna Sichi, also a Rising Star award finalist, accepted the award on her behalf.

Rising Star finalists included: Natasha Adams, mechanic, YouTube and Instagram influencer; Shauna Sichi, General Motors West Communications; and Crystal Windham, executive director, global industrial design, General Motors.

Best in Craft Media Award
Kristin Shaw, freelance writer
, is passionate about technology, aviation, and parenting, but cars have taken center stage in her life. She has developed a deep knowledge of the automotive world and an affinity for the people who bring cars to life, sharing her stories at Edmunds, Popular Science, Forbes, U.S. News and World Report, A Girls Guide to Cars, and Airport Improvement magazine on a regular basis, with bylines at Motor1, Car and Driver, The Drive, and more. Shaw has also shared her work about relationships and parenting on national platforms like The Washington Post, the TODAY show, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, Cosmopolitan, and The Huffington Post.

"It's my absolute honor to receive this award," said Shaw. "It means a great deal to me to be recognized by my peers not just for my work but for my support of other women in this industry. There is room for all of us!"

Best in Craft Media finalists included: Emme Hall, freelance; Elana Scherr, Car and Driver; and Kristin Shaw, freelance.

Automotive Ally
Jennifer Newman, editor-in-chief,,
has served as family-car expert for more than a decade. A certified child passenger safety technician since 2010, Jennifer created's Car Seat Check series and each year delivers the Car Seat Check Honor Roll to help parents and caretakers determine which vehicles will best fit cars seats. She's been featured in numerous media outlets including Good Morning America, Business Insider, USA Today, and Martha Stewart magazine. Not only is she an incredibly accomplished journalist, but an incredible mentor as well. Her nominators noted that they respect and admire the way she cultivates a culture of growth and opportunity on her team of writers and editors, and the way she nurtures the careers of the women who work for her. 

“It’s an honor to be recognized as an Automotive Ally, especially among such an impressive group of nominees and finalists,” said Newman. “I have found a welcoming community of both women and men who have nurtured my own growth in automotive. It’s my hope to play a small part in developing the next generation of women in automotive.”

Automotive Ally finalists included: Emily Miller, founder, Rebelle Rally; Jennifer Newman, editor-in-chief,; and Wendy Orthman, executive director, marketing, Genesis.

Best Retailer
Soledad Romero, store manager, Romeoville Toyota,
started in an entry-level position at the dealership during the pandemic. She demonstrated her excellence as a leader and a human being with compassion, pride, integrity and discipline to achieve results. Since she has climbed her way up to the top of management.  Romero didn’t have any automotive experience when joining the team just two years ago. She leads by example and is willing to help with any department in the dealership. Her team says she handles it all with grace and compassion while leading her team.

"It has been such an honorable moment in my career, to have been recognized and presented with the Best Retailer Award,” stated Romero. “To have been classified under a category such as ‘Influential Woman in Automotive’ has been an incredible experience. Let's continue to support and strand strong behind empowering women who share the same passion for retail in automotive."

Best Retailer finalists included: Gabrielle Abinion, general manager, Fox Valley Volkswagen; Soledad Romero, store manager, Romeoville Toyota; and Carly Weck, finance manager, Elgin Kia.

Founder of A Girls Guide to Cars, and Co-Founder of What Drives Her, Scotty Reiss said “It’s exciting to see the connections, brainstorming and enthusiasm that What Drives Her creates— this year more than ever. And to see so many women —and men!— coming together to celebrate and support each other is truly rewarding and helps to elevate our entire industry.”

The What Drives Her program and award ceremony was livestreamed, courtesy of Reuters Events Automotive. The recording can be found here.

For more information on the 2023 Chicago Auto Show, visit Media can visit for high resolution images and b-roll.


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