AWESOME Legendary Leadership (ALL) Award

2018 ALL Award Honorees

AWESOME has selected two outstanding trail-blazers and role models to receive the 2018 AWESOME Legendary Leadership Award. They are Susan Seilheimer Brennan, Chief Operations Officer, Bloom Energy Corporation, and Ilya R. Espino de Marotta, Executive Vice President for Engineering and Programs Management, Panama Canal Authority. Their achievements in their chosen fields would be remarkable for any leader – that much more so because they are women in traditionally male fields.

Susan Brennan has 25 years of experience in global manufacturing and operations for the automotive and energy industries. In strategic leadership roles for Nissan Motor and Ford Motor – both Fortune 100 companies — she spearheaded large-scale initiatives and drove the companies’ transformations with systemic process and corporate culture change. At Nissan, she was the highest ranking woman in operations – and one of the few women who have held an executive position at a leading Japanese corporation. She ran the largest automotive manufacturing plant in the world and led the introduction of five new car models for Nissan, including the first Infiniti built outside of Japan and the all-electric Nissan Leaf.

At Ford, Susan ran the global business office for the assembly, power train and stamping plants on six continents. She was a key member of the global team that reorganized Ford under its “Way Forward” program. In addition to developing and implementing a strategic plan for the restructuring of labor and manufacturing capacity for Ford, she led the charge to address diversity imbalance among Ford’s management, from production supervisors to directors. She also co-chaired the Women in Manufacturing Employee Resource Group.

As COO of Bloom Energy, Susan is responsible for global supply chain and purchasing, as well as all new product launch strategy and sales execution, operations, capacity management, labor management, EHS strategy and compliance and government affairs.

Throughout her career, Susan has created and supported organizations that encourage young women to pursue careers in math and science. Among these endeavors are serving as a national advisory board member for the National Center for Engineering Pathways to Innovation (Epicenter) at Stanford University and President and founder of the Southern Automotive Women’s Forum. She is past vice president of the Automotive Women’s Alliance Foundation in Detroit, Michigan and served as an advisory board member for the University Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math at Middle Tennessee State University. Twice, she has been named to “Top 100 Women in Automotive” by Automotive News. She is a Distinguished Alumni of University of Nebraska at Omaha, and in 2016, she was honored as a Woman of Influence, Silicon Valley. Susan serves on the board of Senior PLC, a FTSE listed company.




Reprinted with permission from the Southern Automotive Alliance Magazine: March 2018

‘All Girls Auto Know’ middle school outreach program expands from South Carolina to other Southern states.

Cherie McCain had some nift y advantages as she made her way through jobs in traditionally male-dominated ndustries. It’s not every girl who can boast of rebuilding a 1969 Camaro with her dad during her high school years.

But McCain knows many girls aren’t getting the encouragement and experiences that could propel them into science and technology jobs. That’s why she and other members of the Southern Automotive Women’s Forum created All Girls Auto Know, a program that has introduced hundreds of girls to the idea of auto industry careers.

Members of the nonprofit SAWF offer scholarships, serve as role models and help organize fun, challenging All Girls events to tantalize students with new possibilities.

And significantly, they’re reaching girls in middle school.
“We found out that if you focus on high school, it’s almost too late,” said McCain, who manages problem resolution at the BMW plant in upstate South Carolina.

“If you can get them in sixth or seventh grade, you can let them know they have options, that this is something hey can do,” she said.

All Girls Auto Know first worked with Clemson University’s International Center for Automotive Research (CU-ICAR) to host 40 middle school girls in 2011. Among other things, girls did a creative project involving building a balloon-powered car.

“It was a huge success,” McCain said. The next event drew 90 students. The following event involved 150. Now, the program draws about 300 girls to two events a year in S.C., and in 2017, it expanded to Alabama with an All Girls event in Birmingham.

“More boys think that this is just for boys,” one eighth-grade girl said at the Birmingham event, which was co-hosted by a group called Girls Inc. “But I’ve thought about doing this a lot because I love cars, and just like the idea of it.”

Claire Hendrix, a 15-year-old sophomore at Wade Hampton High in Greenville, has positive memories of an All Girls event she attended at BMW when she was in eighth grade. She said she’d recommend it as especially worthwhile for girls interested in automotive industry jobs.

“I am more interested in the fields of psychology and law, but the experience was still worthwhile,” she said. “It was informative and empowering to hear from many women in a male-dominated industry.”

Urgency, opportunity in STEM

How can the U.S. pull more students into fields requiring tech skills? It’s an urgent question aimed at filling jobs in STEM – science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Studies suggest women often are thwarted from these careers by factors including cultural stereotypes, gender bias, and inhospitable academic and workplace environments.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Education projects steady increases in STEM job openings. It’s one priority on which former President Barack Obama and current President Donald Trump agree: Obama pushed promotion of STEM education, and Trump called last fall for a $200 million increase in STEM-related education funding.

Cherie McCain, BMW, Southern Automotive Women’s Forum
Female students are seen as an untapped resource in STEM fields, because so few choose STEM careers. For example, according to the National Science Foundation, 84 percent of people in science and engineering jobs are white or Asian men. And the U.S. ranks third in STEM graduates, far behind China and India.

Reaching middle school girls is smart, because that’s often when they start to lose interest in math and science, said Serita Acker, who heads Clemson’s WISE program (for Women in Science and Engineering).

“A lot of times girls find that when they’re really interested in math, they’re labeled as nerds, and depending on the girl, that can really bother them,” Acker  said. Then, she said, they might not go on to take courses in high school that could put them on a path to tech careers.

Helping Girls Find Their Niche

“Math was always my best subject,” reflected McCain, whose educational achievements include bachelor’s degrees in computers and mathematics, a minor in physics and an International MBA. Over the years, she said, she hasn’t been bothered by workplace situations in which she’s the only woman in the room – but has been concerned that other women were missing out.

McCain likes the idea of approaching industry issues with more diverse employee teams.

“Women solve problems differently than men,” she said. “That’s not to say either is better or worse, but the logic is a little different. The more diverse thinking processes you have, the better the opportunities to exhaust all the options.”

McCain is proud that in South Carolina, All Girls Auto Know events have welcomed almost 2,000 girls since 2011. Having ventured to Alabama in 2017, SAWF plans to expand to Georgia and Tennessee this year.

Besides hands-on projects that might appeal to future engineers, girls also get an up-close look at research and assembly work that goes into auto manufacturing. McCain recalled one girl whose guidance counselor steered her into an All Girls event.

“Nothing was clicking with her,”McCain said. “She was really struggling at school. But after attending our event, she decided that she wanted to get into [the automotive field]. She just sort of found her niche.”

McCain believes auto manufacturing can be an especially good fit for girls.

“Interestingly, in 75 or 80 percent of car purchases, the decision is made by or influenced by a woman,” she said. “It’s something that impacts their lives. And it’s also something the industry needs to get women’s input on, early in the process.”

Acker sees signs of progress. When she started at Clemson 28 years ago, women comprised only about 17 percent of students in its freshman-level general engineering program, she said. Now, that number is up to about 30 percent.

Suzanne Dickerson, S.C. Council on Competitiveness, Southern Automotive Women’s Forum
Suzanne Dickerson, S.C. Council on Competitiveness, Southern Automotive Women's Forum[/caption]Suzanne Dickerson, vice president of SAWF, served 20 years in the auto industry and now is with the S.C. Council on Competitiveness. She believes initiatives like All Girls Auto Know can support industry efforts to build a qualified workforce – and support investments like the $2 billion South Carolina is pouring into infrastructure improvements.

Dickerson sees girls who are increasingly sophisticated about tech issues – cybersecurity, for example – and thinks the auto industry is becoming more welcoming.

“There’s been a fear of the unknown, perhaps, as they try to picture themselves in a manufacturing environment … but I do feel that it is easier now for women to take on leadership roles.” 


Women in Manufacturing: Closing the Gap

The manufacturing industry is recruiting and advancing women to close the talent gap.

One such program — All Girls Auto KnowTM— takes 200 young women from middle schools and 100 educators and parents from around Upstate South Carolina and introduces them to the many opportunities that exist for women in STEM-related fields. Put on by the Southern Automotive Women’s Forum — in partnership with Clemson University and major automotive companies such as BMW, Michelin, Dräxlmaier, and Bosch — the day-long All Girls Auto KnowTM program includes an introduction into STEM and automotive-related career opportunities, tours of automotive manufacturing and training facilities, hands-on engineering challenges, and a showcase of local automotive companies. Current plans are to expand the program to other regions of South Carolina, in addition to Birmingham, Alabama, and Georgia. 

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Girls Inc. and SAWF Present “All Girls Auto Know™” Event

Southern Automotive Women’s Forum to Hold a STEM Event for Middle School Girls

Birmingham, AL (September 26, 2017) The Southern Automotive Women’s Forum (SAWF), a non-profit professional organization that seeks to promote education and advancement of women in the automotive industry, will be partnering with Girls Inc. of Central Alabama, an organization that inspires all girls to be strong, smart, and bold, to hold a one-day STEM event for Birmingham middle school girls. The “All Girls Auto Know” event was held on Wednesday, October 4th at the Girls Inc. Crestwood Center, 5130 8th Court South, from 8:30 AM to 1:30 PM in an effort to introduce girls to automotive career paths.

Because of the great success SAWF has seen when they previously held the “All Girls Auto Know” events in South Carolina, they decided to bring the event to Alabama. By working with three different schools in the Birmingham area – Minor Middle, Smith Middle, and Irondale Middle – Girls Inc. expects to have around 175 7th and 8th graders participate at this event. Local SAWF members will talk about their careers and the need for more women in the automotive industry, and a panel of college students majoring in a STEM program will share insight on high school AP/honors classes, their collegiate program, and what their career plans are. Throughout the second half of the event, the middle school girls will be able to take part in a hands-on STEM activity where they will discuss various skills needed to work in the automotive industry. A number of local automotive vendors, suppliers, and training programs will be in attendance to talk to the girls about college and career opportunities.

“The growth of the automotive industry in the South bring many career opportunities for young women. Girls Inc. is excited to partner with SAWF to introduce girls to the many jobs associated with the automotive field and to show them how to begin preparing for these jobs while they are still in school.”

The “All Girls Auto Know” events have been held exclusively in South Carolina since 2011, with each event exposing up to 300 girls to the world of STEM and the automotive industry. After bringing the event to Birmingham, SAWF plans to expand to Georgia, Tennessee and other Southern Regions.

About Girls Inc. of Central Alabama

Girls Inc. of Central Alabama is a United Way organization providing center-based and outreach programs to school age girls.  The organization focuses on helping girls gain life skills, develop self-confidence and learn to compete in an ever-expanding world. Key program areas include health and wellness, economic literacy, and college and career preparedness. For more information visit

Girls Inc. of Central Alabama is an affiliate of Girls Inc., which serves 138,000 girls across the U.S. and Canada with life-changing experiences and real solutions to the unique issues girls face. Learn more at

About United Way of Central Alabama

United Way of Central Alabama serves Jefferson, Shelby, Walker, Blount and St. Clair counties by providing solutions for the most important needs in the community. Through our partner agencies and community initiatives, we improve lives and community conditions by building and mobilizing resources. United Way fights for the health, education and financial stability of every person in every community.  For more information visit



SAWF’s Scholarship Program Continues Success with Record-Breaking Donations, Providing over $240,000 in Educational Funds

Nashville, Tenn., July 28, 2016 – The Southern Automotive Women’s Forum (SAWF) hosted its 8th annual conference in Nashville this past July, distributing $42,000 in scholarship funds to female students pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering and math fields (STEM). This year marks SAWF as giving over $240,000 in scholarship donations since 2011!

Amy Moffat, SAWF President says, "our 2017 Annual Conference has been well-received by the Automotive community. I can't thank our sponsors and participants enough for the sold-out event and dynamic speakers. To have this chance to network with top professionals in the Automotive Industry and to support so many ladies through scholarship and mentorship is exactly why SAWF was established. I am looking forward to continued growth and new partnerships."

This year’s conference kicked off with a full job fair giving young women aspiring to join the automotive industry the opportunity to meet with the top professionals in automotive.

The 19 scholarship recipients include:

  • Deborah Yussuff, Georgia Southern University
  • Estefany Segura, Middle Tennessee State University
  • Taylor Winns, Clemson University
  • Treyonna Alston, South Carolina State University
  • Ashley McMullen, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
  • Kousaalya Bakthavatchalam, Clemson University
  • Lauren Jones, Clemson University
  • Carley Horton, University of Tennessee
  • Veronica Herrera, Florida Polytechnic University
  • Naomi Florentino, Middle Tennessee State University
  • Alexandra Combs, West Virginia University
  • Bhavya Bhardwaj, Clemson University
  • Prerna Jain, Texas A&M University
  • Audra Chenoweth, North Carolina State University
  • Zoleikha Biron, Clemson University
  • Alaina McCrispin, Central Alabama Community College
  • Anna Hughes, Laureen B. Wallace Community College
  • A’sa Burcham, West Virginia State University

Automotive professionals from across the country gathered in Music City at the Hilton Garden Inn, Nashville to learn and share experiences with top industry experts. Each year, the SAWF annual conference attracts the best and the brightest in the automotive business. Speakers for this year’s conference included:

  • Jennifer Hill, Quality Strategy & Administration Manager, Nissan North America
  • Sally Williamson, Renowned Author, President/Founder of Sally Williamson & Associates
  • Cheryl Carrier, Executive Director of Ford Next Generation Learning
  • Plus, a Full Panel Discussion including Generation Z members who discussed Keying into the Future.

Sponsors for this year’s conference include:  Ford, FBTAuto, Toyota, Tenneco Clean Air North America, BMW Manufacturing Co., Calsonic Kansai North America, Inc., Nissan, Troy Olson Team, Tennessee Automotive Manufacturers Association, Jabil Engineered Solutions Group, Alabama Manufacturers Association, Clemson University, General Motors, Draxlmaier, Georgia Automotive Manufacturers Association, and Atlantic-Pacific Express, Inc.

To become a recognized scholarship donor, please visit! The SAWF hosts additional special events throughout the year, ranging from soirees and cocktail hours to dinners.

About SAWF: Southern Automotive Women’s Forum

The Southern Automotive Women’s Forum is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to the personal and professional advancement of women in the automotive industry. SAWF achieves this mission by collaborating with industry partners to create educational, mentorship, and networking opportunities for its members. Our members serve as strong role models for one another and for young women of all ages who are interested in STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) with the hope that they will apply these skills to the automotive industry of the future. Since its inception in 2010, SAWF has also awarded over $200,000 in scholarship funds to young women beginning their careers in STEM and to women seeking to enhance their opportunities. 

AutoConnect 2017: Keynote Speaker Ron Kirk, Former U.S. Trade Representative

Former U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk to Keynote AutoConnect 2017

Ambassador Ron Kirk, former U.S. Trade Representative and Dallas Mayor, will present the keynote speech at this year’s AutoConnect, the auto industry leadership event with the highest-level networking and most impactful educational sessions.

With global trade policy taking center stage in the Trump administration, it’s more important than ever to get an insider’s view on trade, jobs, the economy, and the political forces driving these issues.

To understand trade policy evolution, look no further than Ambassador Kirk:

  • As U.S. Trade Representative from 2009 to 2013, Ambassador Kirk helped broker the Trans-Pacific Partnership and successfully negotiated Congressional passage of trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea, and Russia's entry in the World Trade Organization. He also served on the frontlines of enforcing trade rules with China and other foreign competitors.
  • As the former Mayor of Dallas, he experienced first-hand the economic impact of NAFTA, as the city flourished under the newly signed agreement during his tenure.
  • Ambassador Kirk was the principal advisor, negotiator, and spokesperson on trade issues for the White House from 2009-2013.

About AutoConnect

AutoConnect, scheduled for October 12 in Nashville, brings together the most prominent professionals in the automotive business for a day of networking and educational sessions. For more information on speakers and the program, visit

SAWF Scholarship in Memory of Lorie Shauntee-Nelson

It is with sadness that we announce that long-time member Lorie Michelle Shauntee-Nelson passed away on Friday, April 28, 2017 in Nashville, TN surrounded by family and loved ones at the age of 59.

Lorie’s passion for helping others and being a role model for women led her to be a founding board member of the Southern Automotive Women’s Forum in 2010. SAWF is a non-profit which promotes women in the automotive industry. During the first years of the organization in her many roles, she was an ambassador who used her vast network to bring women together to make the organization a success.

In SAWF’s first year, two scholarships were given. Both were due to Lorie’s commitment to the organization as she raised the money personally. These first scholarships gave SAWF credibility in its mission and visions and was the springboard to the current success of over $200,000 given away to date. As raising money for SAWF Scholarships was one of Lorie’s full time passions, it is only fitting that we create an annual Scholarship in her memory so that the future she was so focused on improving continues. 

Lorie was born in Terre Haute, Indiana to John A. and Barbara Jean Compton (both of whom preceded her in death). Lorie grew up in large loving family with four brothers John Jr. (who precedes her in death), Stanley, Michael, and Richard and two sisters Leslie King and Lynn Matthews.

Lorie was a radiant soul, she loved the Lord and enjoyed her membership at Cathedral of Praise. She loved life and loved her children and family. The void left by her passing is widespread but her presence will always be near.

Lorie leaves behind her loving husband Elder Phillip Nelson, her son Shadric Bazier, her daughter Kristal Clayton, and granddaughter Ashley Bazier; and a host of other loved ones and friends.
Members of SAWF met with Lorie's friends and family to celebrate her life last week in Nashville, TN

Lorie's family has asked that along with or in lieu of flowers, please send donations to:
Southern Women's Automotive Forum
C.O. SAWF Lorie Shauntee-Nelson Memorial Scholarship
P.O. Box 60128
Nashville, TN. 37206

Donations may be made online.

“Never underestimate the impact of a small group of people to change, the world. In fact, it is the only thing that ever has." To paraphrase Margaret Meade, you could substitute Lorie’s name. Never underestimate the impact that Lorie had on positive change in the world.

All Girls Auto Know Shows Young Girls the World of STEM and Automotive

Last month, nearly 200 middle school girls got the chance to see behind the scenes into the automotive industry. It was part of the Southern Automotive Women’s Forum’s 9th All Girls Auto KnowTM event. works to promote STEM for careers in the Automotive to young girls. This SAWF outreach program invites Middle School girls to learn about the many options which exist for women in STEM and the Automotive Industry.

SAWF’s Past-President Cherie McCain took on the pilot program and developed it into a trademarked name. “We need more girls going to school in the first place,” she states, “so the best way to do that is to start out with them at an earlier age and to let them know that they have lots of choices.”

The event was held at Draxlmaier and big name companies like BMW, Michelin and Mercedes-Benz showed the girls that working on cars and pursuing a career in engineering isn’t just for boys. This event welcomed middle school girls from 8 schools in 2 counties. The day included an introduction to STEM and careers in automotive from SAWF, a tour of the new Greenville Tech Center for manufacturing innovation, a design of experiments hands-on project, and an expo of STEM and Auto representatives from education and businesses including Clemson, BMW, Michelin, Draexlmaier, Bosch and Benore Logistics.

“More boys think that this is just for boys. But I’ve thought about doing this a lot because I love cars, and just like the idea of it,” says Miller Schachner, an eighth-grade student at Dawkins Middle School.

The girls got the chance to see how car parts are made, and got the chance for a hands-on challenge in engineering. The goal is to show girls there are plenty of options for them to follow their dreams, and get the job they want.

“It’s very inspiring. It makes you push more to be where they are and learn about how they’re doing and how they’re succeeding, and what you can do to be on their level or where their accomplishments are,” says Tiraney Petty, an eighth-grade student at Fairforest Middle School.

For the next school year, SAWF plans to host All Girls Auto KnowTM in SC again, but also to expand the program into other SC regions and into Birmingham, AL and Atlanta, GA.

If you would like to support a future All Girls Auto KnowTM  event, please contact Cherie McCain.  

Southern Automotive Women’s Forum Elects New President

 Nashville, Tenn., February 5, 2017 – The  Southern Automotive Women’s Forum (SAWF)  elected Amy Moffatt to serve as President for  2017 during their Annual Retreat in early February.  Amy has been involved with SAWF since 2014  and shares a passion for supporting fellow  females in the Automotive industry and showing  the next generation of how rewarding a STEM education and career can be.

Amy Moffatt believes that membership and involvement in the Southern Automotive Women’s Forum is important because of what the group offers and how it can influence fellow females into STEM related education and careers. The SAWF is dedicated to educating others about the qualities and benefits that women can bring to an organization or male dominated careers.

“SAWF provides an incredible network of like-minded females who work in an industry where females are severely underrepresented. The SAWF provides support to one another and a shared sense of responsibility for improvement for the generations who follow,” Amy states. “When you see other females like yourself who have made it in automotive industry, it makes you feel more confident. By becoming a member of SAWF, I am committed to being available as a mentor to younger females and to doing my best in furthering the mission of SAWF.”

Amy Moffatt is a Senior Manager in the Operations Management Development Division of Toyota Motor North America with responsibility for the strategic deployment of Toyota Production Systems. She was previously a Manufacturing Manager at the West Virginia Powertrain facility. Prior to her career at Toyota, Amy worked as an Engineer for Monsanto, The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co, and as Plant Manager of TWFitting and Danahaer.

As a graduate of the University of Alabama in Electrical Engineering, Amy later earned a Master of Science in Engineering and Technology from Oklahoma State University. Aside from serving the SAWF board and her dedicated career in the Automotive Industry, Amy is a full-time mother and wife to her daughter, son and husband. In her free time, she travels with her family and is highly involved in her local community through her church and children’s schools.