Stella Women: Motoring journalist Elise Elliott on why it’s important for women to get to know their cars

“Knowledge is power. Educate yourself about how to correctly change a wheel, inflate the tyres, check the oil and water, and replace the windscreen wipers and washers.”

Welcome to our Stella Women series celebrating the game-changing women who aren’t afraid to shatter glass ceilings and drive change for other women. We’re proud to partner with Stella Insurance to amplify the voices of these formidable females. Today, we’re speaking with Elise Elliott: a self-confessed rev-head, surfer and mum.

Elise Elliott’s stellar journalism career has spanned more than 25 years. She’s been a political correspondent in Canberra, a TV reporter on A Current Affair (where she famously sparred with Rhonda Rousey), a magazine and radio journalist, and more recently, she has cemented herself as one of Australia’s leading female motoring journalists.

It’s staggering how under-represented women are in the motoring industry, especially given that, according to research, women make the final call on car purchases around 80 per cent of the time. In a world designed for men by men, Elise’s female perspective has led her to a career jam-packed with car launches, MC and radio gigs and motoring columns in some of Australia’s top publications. Elise approaches her work with a female lens, helping to give women a voice. In addition, there are some practical parental topics that are often overlooked.

Here, we sit down with Elise to chat about her career, balancing motherhood, and her determination to change the status quo for women in the motoring industry, just like Stella Insurance has.

Now to Love: Why is it so important for women to get to know their cars better?

Elise Elliott: “Knowledge is power. I don’t think everyone is expected to understand the kilowatts and torque of every latest car, but it pays to know your car. Read the manual cover to cover. Educate yourself about how to correctly change a wheel, inflate the tyres, check the oil and water, and replace the windscreen wipers and washers. Know when services are due and keep them up to date. Understand what’s gone on in your most recent service.”

NTL: Motoring in general is very male dominated. Do you think being a female has helped or hindered your career?

EE: “I’ve made being a woman help my career. 50 per cent of drivers are women, and they are involved in up to 80 per cent of car-buying decisions. Yet women are staggeringly under-represented in motoring journalism. I’ll turn up to a car launch and there will be 30 male journalists and me. At one recent such event the organisers welcomed us with: ‘Good evening lady (singular) and gentlemen (plural)’!

“Rather than whinge about inherent sexism in the industry, I, however, use the fact I am a woman to my advantage. As one of very few females doing what I do I’m kind of curiously in demand. Many car companies want to appeal to a broader demographic and what better way than by engaging a woman who can talk the torque. Also, being a parent helps me review cars from a different perspective. Does a pram fit in that boot? Where are the booster seat ISOFIX points? And how in the hell am I supposed to park that at school drop-off?!

“That’s not to say I dumb down my reviews; your gender should not affect your knowledge base. I just add a different perspective.”

NTL: What should schools be teaching the next generation?

EE: “Manners! Ha, oh no I sound so old. When it comes to motoring, I’d love to see our next generation taught basic skills like navigation without SATNAV, changing tyres or using a puncture repair kit, driving a manual car, and how to handle a vehicle at night/in the snow/in the rain.”

NTL: What’s the best advice you can give to women who are managing a career and motherhood?

EE: “As Betty Friedan, American feminist writer and activist opined: ‘You can have it all, just not all at the same time.’ It’s important to accept this aching truth. Managing a career and motherhood requires a little letting go — and a lot of support.

“Having an encouraging partner is an immense help. Sharing the loving load makes working life easier. If you’re lucky enough to have spritely parents, a nanny or babysitter on hand to help that’s also a bonus. An understanding boss is essential. There are times when you just have to nick out from work to attend the school concert/first aid emergency/cross country race.

“I won’t lie; interstate or overseas work trips are military operations in our household involving an army of support and extensive pre-planning. I’m fond of writing a list and this helps.

“And I confess, when the juggle feels insurmountable, the odd glass of wine is a soothing escape — or locking myself in my car and hiding while listening to Blondie at 100 decibels!”

NTL: Why do you think businesses such as Stella are so important?

EE: “Stella is a bold, brave business; one that shakes up stereotypes. It educates and empowers women. Stella is run by creative, innovative pioneers who are informed — but know how to have fun.”

Brought to you by Stella Insurance.

Read our other Stella Women interviews with Liz Dawes, founder of the Robert Connor Dawes Foundation, and the founders of finance platform, Ladies Talk Money now.

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