I was thrilled to hear that Mary Barra will be the new CEO of GM. The appointment of any woman at the head of a company is a victory for all women and the fact that she is the first woman to head a major automaker is just equally inspiring and worth celebrating. In an article about her, Jena McGregor of the Washington Post reminds us of still dismal numbers: "On average, women hold 16.9 percent of board seats and 14.6 percent of executive officer roles in large U.S. companies. But in the manufacturing-durable goods sector, which includes automakers, the percentage of female directors is 15.6 percent, and the percentage of female executives is just 11.2."
She started with a degree in Electrical Engineering in the early eighties when there were so few women at a time when the percentage of Electrical Engineering degrees awarded to women was at around 10%. Great for all the girls in this country!
Her history reminds us of something that has almost disappeared from the industrial world, a time when large organizations were deeply involved in the scientific training of the next generation. She studied at the General Motors Institute, which later became Kettering University in Flint, Michigan and ultimately worked at GM since she was 19. And according to an interview she gave to the LA Times, her father was a die maker for the Pontiac motor division for 39 years.
Here are some even greater takeaways for HR:
- The value of being able to keep talented interns.
- The power of internal mobility: Mary Barra was involved over the years with virtually every aspect of the business.
- The power of an being outstanding VP of GM’s human resources department, a position that she occupied between 2009 and 2011. She is credited with making the culture of the company evolve.
In short, Mary Barra is living proof of the long-lasting value of talent and human capital management. There have been a lot of articles about her just recently in multiple newspapers. You can also check her bio.