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Mary Barra; Inspiring, Lessons Learned From Her Success

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Mary Barra, a Metro Detroit native, currently serves as the Executive Vice President of Global Product Development, Purchasing and Supply Chain at General Motors. On December 10, 2013, GM named her to succeed Dan Akerson as Chief Executive Officer, making her the first female CEO of a major global automaker.

Barra has climbed her way up the company hierarchy from the time she was 18. She started working for GM as a co-op student in 1980 when she attended the Pontiac division through General Motors Institute. Following this, Barra subsequently held a variety of engineering and administrative positions, including Vice President of Global Human Resources. She earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and her MBA from Stanford.

In 2011, as Vice President of Global Human Resources, Mary was responsible for overseeing and restructuring the culture change to a newly bankrupt GM. She has stayed true to her blue-collar Michigan roots as the daughter of a GM tool-and-die maker. Barra’s upbringing has allowed her to remain genuine in her career for the automaker.

In August of 2012, Mary was recognized by Forbes Magazine as the 41st most powerful woman in the world. She has won praise not only for her knowledge of the business, but also for her leadership style.

The news of Mary’s advancement has inspired several women for many reasons. As Mary blast her way through the steel glass ceiling, she has paved a new path to attract top female talent. “GM has now set a standard in laying an Ace on the table when it comes to attracting top female brainpower and leadership talent” according to Forbes Magazine. Other companies will want to follow suit. Barra is indeed someone cut from the industry cloth, making her a great choice for the next CEO. But her gender, of course is a major story in Detroit, and significant in the corporate world. Her great achievements have added her to the list of 22 women that run major companies.

According to Inforums Michigan Women’s Leadership Index, 1 in 10 of the top publicly traded companies in the state is run by women. And, among Fortune 500 companies in Michigan, women hold 18.37% of the board seats. While there is still much work to be done when it comes to workplace equality, Mary has certainly bridged a milestone that will inspire other women across the globe.

What we can learn from Mary Barra’s success – Do not turn your back on your career goals, and keep working hard despite any setbacks you may face. Once your goal has been reached, create another goal and continue to climb, like Mary has.



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