At General Motors, one must prove oneself as CEO before becoming Chairman of the Board. Mary Barra spent the past two years as CEO ‒ promoted Jan. 15, 2014 ‒ dealing with the ignition switch recall and launching a slew of desirable products that were created either during her tenure as CEO or her previous role as head of product development.
As announced Jan. 4, Barra becomes Chairman of GM Board of Directors ‒ the first woman to hold the position at a major automaker. Barra succeeds Tim Solso, who remains as Lead Independent Director.
"At a time of unprecedented industry change, the board concluded it is in the best interests of the company to combine the roles of chair and CEO in order to drive the most efficient execution of our plan and vision for the future," Solso Said. "With GM consistently delivering on its targets and on track to generate significant value for its shareholders, this is the right time for Mary to assume this role."
Prior to GM's bankruptcy in 2009, it was common for one man to hold both positions. After bankruptcy, pragmatic minds separated the two positions for an additional layer of oversight. It is a sign of the Board's confidence in Barra that she holds both titles.
"I am honored to serve as chair of the board of directors," Barra said. "With the support of our board, we will continue to drive shareholder value by improving our core business and leading in the transformation of personal mobility."
Barra was well prepared. She began with GM as a General Motors Institute (Kettering University) co-op student at Pontiac, in the same plant where her father worked as an hourly employee. She graduated with a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering in 1985. Barra received a GM fellowship to Stanford and graduated in 1990 with an MBA.
Through her rise, she was Plant Manager, Detroit Hamtramck Assembly (Cadillac/Chevy Volt); executive director of Competitive Operations Engineering, vice president of Global Product Development, Purchasing & Supply Chain; vice president, Global Human Resources, and assistant to former GM Chairman Jack Smith.
To learn more about Mary Barra, read "Road to Power" by Laura Colby.
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