10 facts you probably didn't know about GM's first female CEO Mary Barra

By Glen White
On the 15th January 2014 Mary Barra became the first female CEO of major automotive manufacturing firm, General Motors. In fact, her appointment as CEO...

On the 15th January 2014 Mary Barra became the first female CEO of major automotive manufacturing firm, General Motors. In fact, her appointment as CEO was an industry first.

Female CEOs are hardly a rarity these days. In the tech industry, there's Yahoo's Marissa Mayer and IBM's Virginia Rometty, and eBay's Meg Whitman and HP's Carly Fiorina before them. In the auto industry, though, Barra is a pioneer in a male-dominated profession. So how did she do it?

Manufacturing Global unveils 10 little known facts about the leading lady at GM.

  1. Barra joined General Electric in 1980 at the tender age of 19 as a General Motors Institute (Kettering University) co-op student. In order to be accepted on to the course, Barra was required to find a GM sponsor; she selected Pontiac.
  2. Barra followed in the footsteps of her father, Ray Makela, who was a dye maker at Pontiac.
  3. Barra has worn many hats at GM. At one point in her career she headed up the communications department and even ran her own manufacturing facility - GM’s Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant – which experienced double digit growth in quality and safety during her tenure.  
  4. Barra spent a year and a half as GM’s head of human resources before moving on to become the SVP of product development in 2011.
  5. She is genuinely passionate about cars and her first car was a Chevette. Before making a final decision, Barra has put a deposit down on a faster Firebird, but decided against it at the final hour.
  6. Barra has a number of model cars on her desk at work, alongside a Albert Einstein figurine.
  7. GM’s CEO jointed Twitter in April 2014 – today she has 12.1K followers having only sent 53 tweets.
  8. Barra almost bought herself a Chevrolet Camaro but decided against it because it would be too much of a temptation to her teenage son.
  9. Barra believes in giving her designers and engineers at GM the flexibility to achieve greatness: “I think there was sometimes so many boundaries put on them that we didn’t give them a recipe for success. So now were saying no excuses, if its budget, if its resources, we have to do great cars, trucks and crossovers and it’s our job to enable you to do that.” In essence, Barra’s motto is “no more crappy cars.”


  10. She wears a Fitbit (but admits to not always getting her 10,000 steps in). 

Featured Articles

How BP is reshaping the manufacturing landscape

Renewable energy, AI & sustainable initiatives are all on bp's manufacturing spectrum. Hear more from bp’s Ulrich Angeli at Manufacturing Digital LIVE

Embracing Factories of the Future at Hyundai

Hyundai Motor Group Innovation Center Singapore pioneers 'Factories of the Future' with the help of robotics, AI & IoT says Alpesh Patel, of HMGICS

Manufacturing's GenAI journey - cost savings & security

Ryan den Rooijen, COO at Appsbroker & CTS, discusses GenAI survey, highlighting what manufacturing leaders want GenAI to do, from cost savings to security

The future of women in the manufacturing industry

Sustainability & ESG

The future of Tech & AI in the manufacturing industry


Tan Delta's innovations support sustainability goals

Sustainability & ESG