Adding to the growing number of women in leading corporate roles and barging in to male dominated sectors, Mary Barra has moved in as the Lead for Global Product Development for GM Motors. This will be the first time a woman would hold such a crucial and product impacting role in the history of US automobile industry. In her new role, she will lead the design, engineering, program management and quality of vehicles for the company’s 11 brands around the world. Ms. Barra will lead the Product Development organization responsible for managing all global vehicle programs for GM. In this position, she will continue to focus on the customer in the areas of global design, vehicle and powertrain engineering, program management and quality with the goal of delivering the world’s best vehicles. With more than 36,000 members, her team will also manage global strategic product alliances.
Recognized for bringing diverse groups together for a common purpose, Barra was appointed vice president, Global Human Resources in 2009, to initiate change in the company’s culture during the largest restructuring in GM’s history.
Prior to this appointment, she had been vice president, Global Manufacturing Engineering. Barra has also held a number of engineering and staff positions, including plant manager, Detroit Hamtramck Assembly Plant; executive director of Competitive Operations Engineering; and general director of Internal Communications for GM North America. Barra began her career with General Motors in 1980 as a General Motors Institute (Kettering University) co-op student at the Pontiac Motor Division.
She graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering. In 1988, Barra received a GM fellowship to the Stanford Graduate School of Business and in 1990 graduated with an MBA in Business Administration. She serves on the Kettering University Board of Trustees and Inforum Center for Leadership Board of Directors. Barra is also Key Executive for Stanford University. Barra was named one of Automotive News’ 100 Leading Women in the North American Auto Industry” in 2005, and again in 2010
“Knowing that today’s global customer expects even more from their GM vehicle means we have to work harder than ever to exceed those expectations,” said the 49 year old who will continue to report to Akerson and serve on the Executive Committee. “I’m excited by the opportunity associated with this new challenge and pleased to be joining such a strong team with deep technical knowledge and experience, ” she added.
“Mary will bring a fresh perspective to the critically important job of developing vehicles that delight global customers,” said Dan Akerson, GM Chairman and CEO. “Her broad experience in engineering, manufacturing and staff functions, combined with the ability to collaborate and build strong relationships will enhance the company’s ability to deliver the products today’s consumers demand.”
While its often perceived and wrongly debated about the lack of opportunities for women in the fields of technology and engineering, Barra’s appointment should reveal that women can break glass ceilings irrespective of industry types. Earlier this week, wowElle had covered the movement of Linda Marshall, who was named president of GM’s OnStar safety, security and information services business. While GM has seven women among its top 45 executives, including the presidents of its Brazil and Mexico operations, Barra is the only woman on GM’s 15-member executive committee.