Here come the girls

January 17, 2014
Jemma Chalcroft

As it does every January, the Detroit Motor Show has been grabbing the automotive headlines, but this year it’s not the big shiny American machines in the limelight, it’s a lady called Mary Barra.

GM announced in December that they have appointed a new boss and that this new boss was…wait for it… a woman. The automotive media reported this ‘industry first’ as if chiselling the news into a slab of rock in the Stone Age.

Why are we all so fascinated by the fact a WOMAN is the boss of a global car company? I have to admit I’ve been sucked in and have followed the news feeds with interest but we all know a new male chief wouldn’t have caused such a stir.

Mary is a GM lifer, she started working there at the age of 18; she worked her way up the ladder on the production side of the business, taking some time along the way to get married and have two children. Her Dad worked for the company for 39 years in a plant as a die maker. It seems GM is in her blood.

So it seems like she’s perfectly qualified to be taking the desk in the CEO’s office. She’s worked her way up the company’s corporate ladder and has dedicated her entire career to General Motors. If she’s the right person for the job – which it seems that she is – does it matter that she happens to be a lady?

I guess, rather unfortunately, whilst I’d like to think Mary’s appointment was no cause for so many headlines – ‘Person with right qualifications gets job’ – the fact that, at last, the automotive world has a woman sitting in one of the industry’s hottest seats is a cause for some celebration among females working in this sector, as I do. Compare to the UK for example where we have just the one MD of a UK car brand with Linda Jackson at Citroën. I, for one, hope this is a sign of things to come for the automotive business and more doors are opened for the hardworking women who are keeping pace in what still appears to be a male dominated business. Perhaps though, at some point in the not so distant future, we can stop making such a fuss and just get on with it.


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