Riley, who ran the Chevrolet account until 2007, said she and
Brink were a powerful team, bringing a "different voice to the
table." Because they were both full-time working mothers, they
found creative ways to get work done, including spending early
mornings together at the gym, after their children's bedtimes or on
airplanes. Riley, 46, said she was the only woman at Campbell-Ewald
to run the account. "Honestly, it was always me and the boys." One
of her goals was to demonstrate to the leaders that a woman could
handle the pace of the job, which was "blistering" since it was
during the "An American Revolution" campaign in which GM released
10 new vehicles over 20 months. She said her male colleagues showed
great appreciation for the quality of her work.
Michelle Lange's experience racing cars helped endear her to her
male counterparts. As a brand manager for the Lumina and Monte
Carlo from 1992 to 1996, she said, "I could talk with engineers and
come at it from a technical perspective, which gave me
credibility." In her department, there were 16 men, and all the
other women were secretaries. Still, she suffered no discrimination
and said many of the "walls were broken down" by this time.
It was her idea to send 100 families on vacation for a week with
a Lumina and a video camera, asking them to document how the
vehicle was working for them. Lange, 47, also takes credit for
getting leather, typically perceived as a luxury item, in the
family vehicle, since it was easy to wipe clean.
'Business world has evolved'
For Karen Francis, 49, the only female Chevy brand manager
during her tenure handling the 1998 Chevy Venture minivan, the
barrier wasn't gender; it was that she was an outsider with no
automotive experience. Though she was single, her female
sensibilities allowed her to tap into what moms crave. She was
responsible for getting purse nets in the vehicle as well as
fold-down trays in the back of seats and built-in videocassette
By the time Cheryl Catton, 55, became director of marketing for
Chevrolet cars and small utilities in 2006, women had a larger
presence and a strong collective voice. Today, GM has several
female marketing executives heading cars and trucks. It's now "an
easier entree for women," said Heather Stewart, Chevy's national
advertising manager since 2006.
Today at Chevrolet's ad agency, Goodby,
Silverstein & Partners, Melissa Nelson, 37, a Chevy account
director, said there is an even number of male and female marketing
executives. "People paved the way to get us to this point. The
business world has evolved quite a bit within GM and Chevy."