Crystal Windham is the highest ranking black female in automotive design on the globe. In fact, as Cadillac’s interior design director, she has blazed a trail where no woman, who looks like her, has gone. While only a handful of Black men have cracked this ceiling, being in the upper echelon of car designers, as a Black woman, this creative force is the lone ranger.
Ironically, like in many Baptist churches, Black women drive the cash flow. In fact, Black women drive a larger percentage of household new vehicle registrations over Black men and all of their female counterparts, according to IHS, a research mining data group. Yet, at the top of the automotive pyramid, as well as in many Baptist churches, women are severely underrepresented in the leadership ranks. On Sunday mornings, women are the drivers, in terms of the lion’s share of the congregation. Unfortunately, in both sectors, the voices of women are relatively mute, when the spotlight is placed on whose delivering the ‘good word’ and literally driving all of the key decisions.
However, for Windham, she has quietly managed to use what makes her unique to keep her foot planted on the top rungs of the ladder, in a game dominated by men. Her next step would be overseeing an entire design studio or pivoting to the role of global vice president of design, which was the top rung Edward Welburn once held. Welburn, who has served as both Windham’s boss and mentor, was the first black car designer to be hired by General Motors and the second to gain a foothold in the auto design field.
With that said, during a recent insightful conversation, it is quite obvious how Windham’s gifts and her leadership skills has aided this Detroit native to cleverly navigate the politics of corporate America, while also continuing to exercise her artistic abilities to remain competitive in this niche field. While this designer has always been known for remaining both poised and measured, Windham gives us a peek inside the world of design, as viewed through the eyes of a woman. In fact, we explore how the avid reader utilizes book clubs, as one means, to bind the ties of her marriage and to spark the creativity needed to lead her team of designers to think beyond today in terms of crafting the next generation of car interiors.
Like any skilled professional, during her radio conversation, Windham shied away from directly sharing specifics about future product plans, but through one book (and a soon to be released movie on the big screen) she allows us to explore what drives her.
Furthermore, the design anomaly talks about the traits she gleaned from her (deceased) mom, as well as revealed how she weaved Louis Vuitton purses into one of America’s most popular car nameplates.
To hear Windham, tune in to “Auto Trends with JeffCars.com,” on Friday, March 8 at 12:00 p.m. ET on SiriusXM Channel 141. Encore broadcasts can be heard on Monday, March 11 and Wednesday, March 13 at 1:30 p.m. ET and 6:00 p.m. ET, respectively. Cruise over to SiriusXM to find out more about free trials and how to listen.
In addition to Windham talking to “Auto Trends with JeffCars.com,” Dr. Gladys West, one of the ‘Hidden Figures’ behind the GPS and Jean Jennings, the only woman to lead a mainstream automotive enthusiast magazine and a former automotive correspondent for Good Morning America, will be sharing their voices on the multicultural automotive program.