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23.06.2023 Today’s Inspiration from the Detroit Free Press: Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors

23.06.2023 Today’s Inspiration from the Detroit Free Press: Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors
Dear Students,
Who would think that checking fender panels and inspecting car hoods could lead a young woman of Finnish descent to become the Chair and CEO of General Motors? For perspective, GM had 2022 revenues of $157B and currently boasts 167,000+ employees worldwide, across 396 facilities on 6 continents.
Mary Barra’s ascent to the top has not been without challenges, of course. As the first female CEO of a “Big Three” automaker, she began at GM in 1980 and used the job noted above to pay for college tuition at the former GM Institute, obtaining a BS in Electrical Engineering. Inducted into the Engineering Honor Society, Barra was fortunate to attend Stanford Graduate School of Business on a GM fellowship, receiving an MBA in 1990.
Rising through various roles, including VP of Global Manufacturing Engineering, Barra next assumed the unexpected position of VP of Global Human Resources (proving that “power skills” do not relate only to car engines). Her subsequent posts included Executive Vice President of Global Product Development with the later addition of Global Purchasing and Supply Chain. After taking over as GM Chief Executive in 2014, Barra was also recognized in 2022’s Forbes “100 Most Powerful Women” list as #4, right behind Kamala Harris, the first woman to ever serve as Vice President of the United States.
While leading operations within a union environment has never been easy, Barra does not shy from the most recent bargaining obstacles, per the article below. She understands that employees want their share of GM profits and is willing to negotiate equitably with them. Barra is even quoted as saying “It’s important to surround yourself with people who will challenge you and tell you when and why you are wrong.” With her emphasis on constructive problem-solving, Barra’s orientation is decidedly long-term, demonstrated by GM’s “envisioning a world with zero crashes” and “zero emissions,”(per her bio on Speakerbookingagency). Her optimistic outlook for GM’s Autonomous Vehicles and EVs, as described in, is focused on geographical expansion, potentially even into Dubai and Japan, and service/product growth, to include goods delivery and personal autonomous vehicles.
To sum up the perspective that’s “driven” the balance between needed cost-cutting and investment in research and development, Barra says simply, as a visionary leader, you should be thinking about more than just the next quarter. You should also be thinking about the next decade, and what your company’s reputation and place in the world will be after 40 quarterly results.”
It’s a valuable leadership approach for ambitious international students (of both genders) like you to consider, particularly if you personally aspire to such impactful roles.