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Casting the Spotlight on Mary T. Barra, the First Woman to Head a Major Automaker

The corporate world has seen many highfliers and notable individuals, especially in the automobile industry. The male-dominated industry is not one that has seen many women attain the top positions, but Mary Teresa Barra is an exception. Rising through the ranks and climbing to the top job position at General Motors is a feat no woman has achieved, and Mary Barra has set the pace. She has gone on to prove that she’s not just a CEO but one that is capable of making notable changes in the automobile industry.

Mary Teresa Barra holds the position of the Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board of Directors of General Motors. Before her, no woman has headed General Motors nor headed any of the top three Automakers in the United States. She became the company’s CEO on January 15, 2014, and was elected Chairman of the Board of Directors on January 4, 2016. Before she became the CEO, she served in the positions of the executive vice president, Global Product Development, Purchasing, and Supply Chain. She also served as the senior vice president, Global Product Development. Over the last decade, she has played a huge role in the design, engineering, and quality of General Motors vehicles globally.

Barra has spearheaded billions of dollars of investments in electric vehicles, self-driving cars, and a ride-share service called “Maven.” In spring 2020, during the COVID-19 Pandemic, she shifted General Motor’s production lines to assist Ventec Life Systems with producing much-needed ventilators. She has also ensured that General Motors upheld all gender-equity recommendations over the years. Her career at General Motors dates back to 1980 as an 18-year old young girl self-funding her way through college. She joined the compay as a co-op student at General Motors Institute, which is now known as Kettering University, where she earned her Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering. She later proceeded to Stanford Graduate School of Business and obtained a Master of Business Administration in 1990.

Over the last four decades, Mary Barra has served in various capacities and is now heavily involved in strengthening the company’s core vehicle business while improving the customer experience and the overall service business. Mary Barra’s vision for General Motors is to see a world where there are no car crashes, zero emissions, and zero congestion. Her goal is to create a healthier world by making sure General Motors continue to push the boundary for safety. She is passionate about advanced technologies like electrification, autonomous driving, and connectivity.

Outside her role as GM’s CEO, Mary Barra serves as a director on the Board of Directors of the Walt Disney Company as the 12th person to occupy a seat on the board of Directors at Disney and the fourth woman. She is also part of the Duke University Board of Trustees, the board of trustees at Stanford University, the Stanford Graduate School of Business Advisory Council, the Detroit Country Day School, and the Detroit Economic Club.


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