Mary Barra – About Career Journey

The CEOs are not in the position for glory. Instead, they are responsible for structuring the future of the business. Though the current number of female CEOs is far less than that of the male CEOs, it seems to increase with time. The women CEOs tend to outperform the male CEOs and other males at the top positions. In this article, we’ll know more about the career journey of Mary Barra.

Introduction To General Motors

Mary Barra - About Career Journey

General Motors is an American multinational company in the automobile sector. The headquarters are in Detroit, Michigan, designs, manufactures, and sells automobiles and their parts. It got founded by William C. Durant and aims at providing a world-class customer experience. It also ensures that the vehicles created by the company introduce no congestion, emission, and crashes.

Introduction To Mary Barra

Mary Teresa Barra is the first female CEO of General Motors (GM) and is currently the Chairman and one of the two CEOs of the company. She came into the position in 2014 and is considered the first female to be a part of the C-suite in a leading automobile company. Mary Barra knows the company more than anyone else. Earlier, she was the Executive Vice President of supply chain and worldwide purchasing.


Mary Barra was born in Royal Oak, Michigan, and spent most of her youth in Waterford, Michigan. She completed her schooling at Waterford Mott High School and pursued a BS degree in electrical engineering from Kettering University, Michigan, earlier known as the General Motors Institute. She became a part of the engineering community named Tau Beta Pi. It is the oldest society in America recognized nationally. It honors the students who present their better performance, academic achievement, and dedication towards integrity. Later, Mary Barra joined Stanford Graduate School of Business, and in 1990, she gained an MS degree in Business Administration.

Career Path

At the age of 18, Mary Barra joined GM while studying at the General Motors Institute. There, she performed fundamental inspections and used the amount to pay for her education. Over time, she got busy managing various additional responsibilities in the company.

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  • More Responsibilities

She was assigned the task of overseeing the Detroit Assembly plant after holding some related administrative and engineering positions. She got her MBA from Stanford Business School. It is a two-year degree course that ranks fourth in the world.

  • Major Roles

Before becoming the Vice President of the Global Human Resources in 2009, she was assigned the same job title in Global Manufacturing Engineering for the previous year. She continued with the job title even after 2011 by being in charge of Global Product Development. She was already a woman with the highest rank in the automobile industry before holding this position.

  • Becoming The CEO

In January 2014, she took over the position of the Chief Executive previously held by Dan Akerson. It made her the first female CEO of one of the leading automobile industries. It was the beginning of the struggles for both the company and the new CEO. Approximately 30 million cars were getting recalled due to faulty ignition switches. Those switches led to hundreds of deaths and more injuries. Thus, the company had to look into the matter. The company and Mary Barra got accused of rewarding the people for polishing the company’s image and the CEO herself. After paying the compensation and claims in terms of millions of dollars, the company somehow came out of the crisis, and Mary Barra made changes in the company’s policies to ensure worker assistance. However, she could not explain to Congress why it took a long time to recall the faulty switches.

  • Driverless Cars

Mary Barra made the company move towards the concept of driverless cars. Since then, GM has led the industry of driverless electric cars that provides cheaper vehicle options than its competitor Tesla. She managed to serve the customers with a beautiful and practical vehicle, the Chevy Bolt EV.

GM has recently brought Chevrolet Cruze for the customers that can get driven smoothly, provides comfortable seats, and an organized interior.

  • Shutting Down The North American Plants

She stood as the Detroit Three executive with a maximum salary in 2017. She got involved in shutting down the five North American plants and led to the termination of thousands of workers resulting in criticism.

  • Being A Part Of The Board

Mary Barra is the board member of the companies such as Detroit Country Day School, Duke University, Stanford University, Detroit Economic Club, and Disney. She holds the position of board member in multiple organizations. She also served as the Board member of General dynamics for some time.

Highlighted Leadership Style

She became the CEO of GM over seven years ago and managed to survive in a male-dominated industry. She has provided a lot to learn from her leadership style.

The following are the highlighted leadership styles in the case of Mary Barra:

  1. Embracing The Challenges

We know only about a few challenges in her career. She must have gone through a lot in her daily life. But, running away from the challenges is not the way to move ahead. So, one must accept the challenges, take some time to understand them, find potential solutions, implement them, and learn something from every outcome.

  1. Gender Equality

Individuals must move ahead in their careers through merit then whatever the gender may be. If women want the same rights as men, they must get ready to face the same challenges.

  1. Thinking For And According To The Customers

A company must prioritize the customer needs to be successful. It must effectively bring the business goals in line with the customer needs and create efficient customer strategies. The company must think from the customer’s perspective to understand their needs because they play a vital role in leading the company towards higher profits.

  1. Understand The Problems Of The Employees

Employees are not machines. Thus, they might come up with different problems. The leaders must listen to all the employees and related stakeholders, allow the employees to present their views, and mention their issues. It is necessary because a single leader cannot think across every aspect of the company. This leadership style helps most companies in dealing with a big crisis.

  1. Hard Work Is Necessary

The leaders do not just compete with their peers, but they also compete with similar innovators in the industry. Some problems must get solved by hook or crook. They accept no excuses. Thus, the leaders must get ready to scarify their comfort, free time, unproductive employees, and more to maintain the company standards. The leaders are different than the typical bosses. The leaders must come in the front and provide the employees with a way to move further.

  1. Speaking Clearly

The leaders must get ready to listen as well as speak clearly. Good communication skills are a must. They must listen to the related individuals for solving an issue, communicate the potential options to others, implement the best ones, and solve the problem. They must be confident enough with what they speak because they are looked upon as the ideals by the world.

  1. Honesty And Simplicity

Mary Barra aims at building simple cars and has instructed the engineers and designers about the same. She also says that creative employees are constantly under the pressure of limited resources, budget, and deadlines. It is the responsibility of the top-level employees to provide them with the required materials to let them use their creativity for the betterment of the company. However, she also expects the employees to be honest regarding the work.


The annual salary of Mary Barra per annum, including all the compensations, is over $23 million.


Mary Barra has helped GM in its bad times only because of her sheer determination and leadership qualities. GM is known to be the first company out of the 200 companies across the globe to have gender equality. Being at the highest position in the male-dominated automobile industry is not a cakewalk, but Mary Barra made it. GM has experienced positive changes after the rise of Mary Barra. She believes that hard work is not optional at all, and one has to fight with the situations to be successful.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What Are Some Of The Challenges Faced By CEOs?


The challenges faced by a CEO are too big as they structure the goals for the company. The following are some of the challenges faced by them:

  • Coming over the distractions: They have a lot to do and still ensure growth for the company.
  • Using the opportunities: Good leaders must know how to use the opportunities and get ready to create them.
  • Making profits: Though the founders have the sole proprietorship, the CEO is responsible for maintaining only the required cash flow within the organization.
  1. Who Are The Competitors Of General Motors?


Some of the competitors of General Motors are Tesla, BYD, Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz USA, FCA US, BMW Group, Nissan, Hyundai, and Toyota.

  1. Who Are Some Of The Most Powerful Women From America?


Some of the top 50 most powerful women in 2021, according to Fortune are Karen Lynch (the CEO of CVS Health), Gail Boudreaux (CEO and President of Anthem), Corie Barry (CEO of Best Buy), Amy Hood (EVP and CFO at Microsoft), Carol B. Tomé (CEO of United Parcel Service (UPS)), and Beth Ford (CEO and President of Land O’Lakes).

Mary Barra – About Career Journey

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