Mary Barra – CEO of General Motors

          “I guess you could say she broke through the steel ceiling, not the glass ceiling.” [Hillary Clinton]

Screen Shot 2014-02-02 at 1.59.19 PMMary Barra is the daughter of an autoworker. She is also the CEO of General Motors, the first woman to head a global automaker. In 2013, Fortune magazine named her one of the “50 Most Powerful Women in Business” and Forbes magazine listed her in the “World’s 100 Most Powerful Women.”

Her career began as a co-op student when she was 18, with General Motors, the same company that employed her father for 39 years as a die maker. Given the chance to attend the General Motors Institute (now re-named Kettering University), Mary Barra pursued and earned a degree in electrical engineering. General Motors later assisted her when she earned an MBA from Stanford University.

She moved up through the ranks of General Motors and, when the federal government bailed out General Motors, they approved her to run the company’s human resource division. After that position, she was promoted to Senior Vice President, second in the hierarchy at GM. Her duties included engineering, design and quality control. Much has been made of her gender, but she assures others that “my gender doesn’t really factor into my thinking when I come into the room.”

As head of the world’s second-largest automaker (after Toyota), Mary Barra brings a different style of leadership to the company. She relies on team-building and consensus, but can also make the tough decisions. One colleague said, “She’s an outstanding listener. . but when it’s not coming together, she gets concise and she’s pretty decisive.” Although one of her goals is to have 500,000 General Motors vehicles with at least some electrification by 2017, her favorite cars are the Chevrolet Camaro and the Pontiac Firebird.

Mary Barra was invited to join Michelle Obama at the State of the Union address this past week. After the speech, in which the President mentioned her (although not by name), the die maker’s daughter  said “. . .it was touching for me because it referenced my father who I’m so proud of.”

LEARN MORE:

Read her biography on the General Motors website: http://www.gm.com/company/corporate-officers/mary-barra

Read comments about Barra’s inclusion in State of the Union address in the Detriot Free Press: http://www.freep.com/article/20140129/BUSINESS01/301290108/general-motors-mary-barra-president-obama-state-of-the-union

QUESTION OF THE WEEK:

          Which other women do you know who achieved something through perseverance and loyalty?

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