The Businesswoman: Mary Barra

Naghilia Desravines
  • Barra is the first and top paid female CEO in the industry. Before that, Barra served as the Executive Vice President of Global Product Development, Purchasing, and Supply Chain at General Motors itself.
Mary Barra Businesswoman

“What I always say is, ‘Do every job you’re in like you’re going to do it for the rest of your life, and demonstrate that ownership of it.” Mary Barra

Mary Teresa Barra, born in Royal Oak, Michigan on December 24, 1961, is the Chairwoman and CEO of General Motors Company. She has held the senior most position in the company since January 15, 2014. Barra is the first and top paid female CEO in the industry. Before that, Barra served as the Executive Vice President of Global Product Development, Purchasing, and Supply Chain at General Motors itself.

Barra graduated and obtained Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering from the General Motors Institute (now Kettering University). However, in 1990 she attended Stanford Graduate School of Business and received her Master’s degree in Business Administration from there.

Barra started working at General Motors when she was only 18. She started her career in the company as a co-op student in 1980.  Now,  she  is  Chairwoman  and  Chief  Executive  Officer  of  the  General  Motors Company. She has dedicated 33 years of her life in the service General Motors. Hardly has it happened that people spend these many years in the same company, especially today when people just switch their companies for a little growth.

Mary Barra is exceptional in many ways. She has successfully climbed the ranks, she played many roles in the same company from the role of executive to executive vice president of global product development, purchasing and supply chain, senior vice president to manager, executive director of vehicle manufacturing engineering, vice president of human resources and product development etc., thereby becoming the first female CEO of an automotive industry in the world.   

Mary Barra has gone through thick and thins in the company and has showcased her success as a leader through the toughest times of General Motors – be it aftermath of the bankruptcy filed in 2009 or the greatest challenge named “Switchgate” in 2014 as the CEO, a manufacturing fault in the car ignition which resulted in 100 deaths. Mary Barra, being driven by uprightness, acknowledged the problem publicly, instigated a full investigation, and committed that the company make up for it, without being concerned about the cost. Though, the move on her part was risky, but it successfully redefined the corporate culture of General Motors. 

Mary is a leader with vision, who always knew that the company need a big change, and she could successfully redirect  the  General  Motors’  focus  onto  three  factors – excellence,  customer  and relationships. Also, in order to highlight transparency, she initiated a program in the company called “Speak Up for Safety,” which encourages the employees to report issues and employees are rewarded for that. 

Mary is action-oriented, her management style is collaborative, she stresses on the importance of team work and everyone being heard, she is respectful towards her colleagues. Her goals for the company and her attitude towards her work and her employees shifted the brand from being the biggest, to being the best – emphasizing on quality at every level. Mary transformed General Motors into a corporation prepared for the future of the automotive industry. Today, the company is growing at the best of its pace and the stock price reached its highest value in October, 2017.   

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She believes that a key to build a successful professional relationships is, to spend time getting to know your coworkers, their families and what is important to them. Mary even created a support system for women in the company, in order to help women with issues they would face in the work field. Later on, the group was expanded to affinity groups for minorities and women etc., further Mary has created the successor to these groups, which is known as GM WOMEN, standing for “women offering mentoring, expertise, and networking.”  

In the year 2016, Barra for the fifth time, was listed as one of the world’s most powerful women by Forbes. Also, most recently she was listed as the fifth Most Powerful Women, rising from 35th in 2013.

In April 2014, she was featured on the cover of Time’s “100 Most Influential People in the World.” 

She continue to remain in the number one position in Fortune’s Most Powerful Women of 2017. Like this there are several feathers on her hat, as she very well deserve them all. 

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