Mary Barra is a Purposeful Woman

Mary Barra, Vice President of new product development for General Motors has been named the new CEO of the largest auto manufacturer in North America. This marks another first for women in leadership; as Ms. Barra will be the first CEO in the auto industry and also considered the most powerful woman executive in the country.


Secondly, the story is so unique in that she started with the company as a teen intern. She worked her way up the ranks over the past thirty years and now will lead the way. In an interview by the LA Times, she was asked to describe her management style:

Collaborative. When we have to make tough decisions, giving direction and setting the strategies for the products of General Motors, there should be constructive tension. We should have vigorous debates.

I try to create an environment where people feel they could voice their concerns and that we can get the best ideas on the table and then make the right decision.  But at the end of the day, when the decision has to be made, if we don’t have complete unanimity, I have no qualms about making it. But I want that tension in a constructive way to make sure we evaluate things from every angle.

I am pretty hands on as well.  I will call a chief engineer when I am driving a vehicle. 

Collaborative – one of the key differences women leaders exhibit over their male counterparts.

It will be interesting to follow her progress and see what changes the company takes over the next few years with her management style in place. In another LA Times article discussing Barra’s rise to the key leadership position, the author talks more about women in trend of women in leader positions:

The elevation of a woman to the top position at a major industrial company underscores the quality and availability of women ready to lead corporations, said Kathy Kram, a Boston University School of Management professor.


“Her appointment is certainly something to be celebrated. But the fact that we are still counting firsts says something about women in leadership,” said Deborah Gillis, chief operating officer of Catalyst, a nonprofit that tracks the status of women in business.

In its annual census released Tuesday, Catalyst noted that women continue to be underrepresented in the most senior ranks of Fortune 500 companies. Women hold just 14.6% of executive roles, a number that has been stagnant for four years, Gillis said.

When Barra takes over at GM in January, she will be only the 23rd female chief executive at a Fortune 500 company, according to Catalyst.

Mary Barra is certainly an inspiration for us all and we wish her the best!