General Motors will instate Mary Barra as its chief executive officer next year, which Bloomberg Businessweek reports will make her the first female CEO throughout the global auto industry. GM's current CEO, Dan Akerson, has held the position since 2010 and will be retiring on January 15th of next year. Barra, 51, is a longtime GM employee who has worked her way from the ground floor up. She started as a co-op student with Pontiac back in 1980, and since then has worked her way through various engineering and staff positions over 33 years with the company.
Over 30 years at GM, starting on the ground floor
For nearly three years now, Barra has been in charge of the development and quality of all GM vehicles worldwide. According to Fortune, her directive to employees since starting the position has been: "No more crappy cars" — something that she says resonates with employees and drives them toward success. Barra has jumped around throughout the company though; she's previously worked in supply chain organization, human resources, and plant management during her long tenure at GM. "I'm honored to lead the best team in the business and to keep our momentum at full speed," Barra says in a statement today.
Barra received a masters in business administration from the Stanford Graduate School of Business in 1990, and graduated with a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from General Motors Institute — now named Kettering University — a decade prior. Lately, Bloomberg Businessweek reports that Barra has taken to paring down GM's management structure, simplifying who's in charge of any given vehicle's development. It also reports that her goal while working in human resources was to groom new leaders as the company moved to emerge from bankruptcy.
That makes the timing of today's announcement somewhat fitting: it comes on the heels of a successful turnaround toward profitability by GM, which was struggling in the late 2000s and ultimately relied on US government investments to stay afloat. But as of yesterday, the government is no longer involved with the automaker. USA Today reports that the federal government sold its final share in GM on Monday, after putting $49.5 billion into the company over the past several years. Though it may have been Barra who was grooming others for leadership positions at a GM free from government reach, it seems that Barra herself was the one prepared for the task when that day finally came.