The automotive industry has historically been a male-dominated field. Still, within the space, there are stories of pioneering women who have made significant contributions to shaping the landscape of transportation. Amongst them is Ford’s first Black woman car designer Emeline King whose journey has been highlighted in an autobiography, Fox 2 Detroit reported.
The book titled “What Do You Mean a Black Girl Can’t Design Cars? Emeline King, She Did It!” is a story that embodies the spirit of perseverance, illustrating how King defied the odds in an industry where Black women are underrepresented. King—whose father Earnest King was a plastic model specialist at Ford—developed a passion for automobiles at an early age. She often played with toy cars and was fascinated by the Ford Mustang.
“It was my ﬁrst visit to my father’s work at the Ford Design Center that became the catalyst for me to want a career in transportation design,” she shared in an interview with Ford. “Having my father guide me, influence me, and expertly mentoring me was my bridge, my connection to my dreams. I was very fortunate because my father also introduced me to a group of talented African American male transportation designers, modelers and engineers who worked at Ford. They took the time to serve as mentors to me throughout my career at the Ford Design Center.”
Intrigued by the creative process behind the development of automobiles, the Detroit native—who graduated from Cass Technical High School—decided to follow in her father’s footsteps and pursue a career in the vehicle manufacturing industry. She studied transportation design at California’s Art Center College of Design and was hired by Ford Motor Company in 1983. During her nearly 25-year tenure at Ford, King worked on the interior design and development of the 1994 Ford Mustang, the 1990 Ford Probe, the 2000 Ford Thunderbird and other vehicles. She was also responsible for patenting the 1989 Thunderbird’s 15-inch wheel cover.
The Wayne State University graduate parted ways with the company in 2008, but her barrier-breaking contributions will forever be etched in the auto giant’s history. Now an artist and author, King hopes her path in the industry will inspire children to follow their dreams and challenge the status quo. She reportedly wants to launch a STEM program for girls.
King’s inspiring book comes as there is a significant need for racial and gender diversity in the automotive industry. Research shows Black women make up 6.2 percent of the vehicle manufacturing workforce.
“Being the only African American female transportation designer, it took me by surprise, and it took some time to get over it,” said King. “However, I took my lemons and turned them into lemonade. I took my sorrows and blended it into sunshine. I’m now so proud to have written a book that I hope will inspire young girls and boys to never give up. To influence them so that they can stay focused and alert, and so they never look back.”