Rebecca Bernard
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100 Leading Women for 2015 Named by Automotive News

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Mary Barra 100 Leading Women in the North American Auto Industry

Mary Barra and KC Crain Jr., host of the event honoring the 100 Leading Women in the North American Auto Industry
Image: Santa Fabio for General Motors

It’s no secret that the automotive world is seen as a boy’s club. Dealerships, automaker boardrooms, car shows, and more are filled with men, and it can be intimidating to break into the field. The numbers of women in the upper reaches of the car world has been steadily increasing, though, and Automotive News makes a point to check-in with women in this industry to note progress (or setbacks) with its list of 100 Leading Women.

The 100 Leading Women in the North American Auto Industry list has been published every five years since its debut in 2000. In 2010, the industry was gripped by the recession and the contraction of the auto industry meant fewer leadership roles for women. In 2015, there has been significant progress.  For instance, in 2010, there were only two female CEOs on the list, and 63 executive officers or business owners. Now there are six women CEOs and 73 women who bear an executive title or own their own automotive businesses. Women on the list work in diverse parts of the auto industry, with some of them directly employed by manufacturers and some working for or owning suppliers.

GM’s CEO Mary Barra is the ultimate success story for the list. While she was not on the Automotive News radar in 2000, by 2005 Barra earned a spot as the Executive Director of Vehicle Manufacturing Engineering. In 2010, Mary Barra had risen to be the Vice President of Global Human Resources, and has won her spot on the 2015 list as GM’s CEO. Not only is she the CEO, but she also demonstrates the power of women educated in STEM fields. With her bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering, Barra started her career with GM as an engineer, and managed one of the assembly plants. Her experience on the assembly floor and in her other positions at GM helped make her the perfect candidate to head the company in 2013.

GM is proud to have 12 additional honorees on the list, including the Executive Director of Global GMC Design and User Experience Helen Emsley , and the Chief Engineer of Next-Generation of Full-size Trucks Sheri Hickok. The News Wheel contributor Lisa Copeland, a managing partner of FiatAlfa Romeo of Austin, also made the list for 2015. Other major manufacturers who were represented included the Ford Motor Company with 12 honorees, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles with nine, and Toyota with five.

The 100 Leading Women are chosen from a list of candidates by Automotive News reporters, the CEO of Inforum (a professional women’s group in Michigan), Deloitte’s Center for Automotive Insights leader, and a former list member who is has retired.

You can see the complete list of honorees on the Automotive News website. With women in STEM fields on the rise, we can’t wait to see how this list changes in five years.