What Drives Her

The Chicago Auto Show organizers are proud to partner with A Girls Guide to Cars to produce the annual What Drives Her networking event and awards program during the show's Media Preview. What Drives Her was started in 2017 as a way to bring together influential women in the automotive industry and amplify the female leadership and innovation contributions across manufacturing, retailers, media, and beyond.

2024 Program Recap

The 2024 What Drives Her program, presented by Nissan and sponsored by CDK Global, brought female executives to the Chicago Auto Show stage presenting research centered on female purchasing power and trends. The panel, titled "What Drives Her...To Buy a Car," was moderated by Kathy Gilbert, senior director minority dealer and women retail, CDK Global. Panelists included:

  • Amy Emmatty, CRO, Productions Plus
  • Trudy Hardy, vice president and region Americas head, BMW Motorrad
  • Trisha Jung, senior director for EV strategy and transformation, Nissan

The What Drives Her program and award ceremony was livestreamed on the Chicago Auto Show Facebook page. The recording can also be found here.



The annual What Drives Her awards recognize and applaud outstanding females and advocates in the industry. Nominations are 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.

Industry Trailblazer (formerly 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.

2024 finalists included: Ashwini Balasubramanian, general manager, advanced engineering, Harley Davidson Motor Company; Laurie Transou, chief program engineer, Ford Motor Company.

2024 Winner: Olabisi Boyle, vice president, product planning and mobility strategy, Hyundai Motors

Olabisi is responsible for guiding the strategic direction of Hyundai's U.S. vehicle lineup, leading long-range planning, and overseeing market research, business analytics and advanced pricing. In just three years, Boyle has made a huge impact on Hyundai's success and direction, including leading the expansion of Hyundai vehicles into the Tesla charging network by 2024, as well as pioneering the Hyundai home initiative, launching the Evolve+ EV subscription program. She's also received significant recognition throughout her career, including being named in Automobile News All-Star in 2023 and 2021 and being named as Automotive News' 100 Leading Women in the North American Auto Industry.

Previous recipients:

  • 2023: Crystal Windham, General Motors
  • 2022: Linda Zhang, Ford

Best in Craft Media

A full time or part time North American journalist, content creator or media with a focus on the automotive industry, she demonstrates general excellence of craft, supports women and her colleagues in the automotive industry or, through voice and narrative, creates more accessible automotive information and more inclusive automotive storytelling.

2024 finalists included Abigail Bassett, freelance journalist and podcast host; Elana Scherr, senior features editor, Car and Driver.

2024 Winner: Jill Ciminillo, automotive content creator, Rebelle Rally competitor, NACTOY juror, WWCOTY juror

Jill Ciminillo launched her career in 2001 as the auto editor for Pioneer Press Newspaper. She soon began to write reviews with a female perspective and keen eye toward the interests of many general consumers, covering topics such as driving position, cargo space, vehicle amenities, and seat comfort. She went on to work for many other outlets including the Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Tribune and Sinclair broadcast group. Today, Ciminillo is the managing editor of Pickup Truck + SUV Talk and works with Consumer Guide Automotive, writing reviews and hosting podcasts and radio shows. Ciminillo was the first female president of the Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA). She is a Juror of the North American Car, Utility & Truck of the Year Awards (NACTOY) and the Juror of the Women's World Car of the Year (WWCOTY). A great significance is Ciminillo's role as an early adopter of new technology and social media platforms, embracing Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, as well as podcasting and TikTok.


Previous recipients:

  • 2023: Kristin Shaw
  • 2022: Sue Mead

Automotive Ally

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.

2024 finalists included: Dean Case, communications consultant; Cheryl Thompson, founder, Center for Automotive Diversity, Inclusion and Advancement.

2024 Winner: Wendy Orthman, executive director marketing, Genesis Motor America

Wendy Orthman has been a visionary throughout her two-decade career, cutting her teeth in marketing and PR at GM and FCA before breaking out at Nissan. She and her family moved to Japan in the middle of the pandemic, taking a leap of faith for Orthman's new job at Infiniti. Two years later they returned so she could move into her current position at Genesis. Orthman is both adored and successful is because she is force of nature. She knows how to push the envelope without ripping it to shreds, pursue new ways of working with the automotive journalism field and markets cars with style.

Previous recipients:

  • 2023: Jennifer Newman, Cars.com

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.

2024 finalists included: Amanda Pickett, BDC manager/finance manager, Advantage Chevrolet Bridgeview; Jennifer Tonelli, controller, Mike Anderson Chevrolet of Merrillville.

2024 Winner: Gabrille Abinion, general manager, Fox Valley Volkswagen

Gabrille Abinion has always been driven and passionate following her father's footsteps in the automotive industry. In 2017, Abinion joined her family's auto group as an Operation Manager. This led to an opportunity to become the general manager of Fox Valley Buick GMC. It was at this time that she was introduced to General Motors (GM) Minority Dealer Development program through her Dealer 20 group and is now a member of the GM Dealer Development National Candidate Pool. In efforts to diversify her experience within the Auto Group's portfolio, Abinion is now the General Manager of Fox Valley Volkswagen. She has helped her Volkswagen stores to set records and sales, as well as breaking the record for Service & Parts growth of all time, three-times in 2023.


Previous recipients:

  • 2023: Soledad Romero, Romeoville Toyota
  • 2022: Megan Deters, Brillance Honda