Women to Watch

Women to Watch: Mary Barra, General Motors Co.

Senior VP-Global Product Development

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Ten of the top 50 executives at General Motors are women. But there has never been a female CEO at the world's second-largest automobile company.

Not yet, that is . Meet Mary Barra.

The current senior VP-global product development has been cited by GM's current CEO, Dan Akerson, in various news reports as a potential contender for the post when he retires. Though an engineer by background, if Ms. Barra ascends to the top slot she will have a big say in advertising for the country's third-largest ad spender.

A confirmed GM-o-phile, Ms. Barra's late father worked at Pontiac for nearly 40 years; and she interned at the marketer's headquarters when she was 19 and never left. Now 50 and the mother of two teenagers, "I don't know that I'm a 'car gal,' but I know I love cars and trucks," she said in a recent interview.

Before taking on her current assignment this past February, Ms. Barra had served as VP-global manufacturing engineering and plant manager at Detroit's Hamtramck Assembly. In 1988, she received a GM fellowship to the Stanford Graduate School of Business and in 1990 graduated with an MBA.

What is your favorite book?
"For One More Day" by Mitch Albom

Give us one fact about yourself that will surprise people.
Even though my dad and I both worked for Pontiac Motor Division, my first car was actually a Chevrolet. I couldn't afford my dream car -- a Firebird -- so I bought a Chevette. It was the first of many Chevys that my husband and I have purchased over the years.

What is your dream vacation spot?
Vacations aren't as much about where you are as much as who you're with. My husband I are a dual-careers couple with two very active teenagers, so our schedules are hectic. For us, a few days anywhere together is a great vacation -- on a hot, sunny beach is an added bonus.