EVEN WITH THE EXPANSIVE CONTACTS BEFITTING THE FIRST WOMAN TO RUN ONE OF THE WORLD'S THREE LARGEST AUTOMAKERS, MARY BARRA SAYS THE MOST INFLUENTIAL PERSON IN HER LIFE WAS HER MOTHER.
“My mom grew up in the Depression and didn’t have the opportunity to go to college,” said Barra, Chairman and CEO of General Motors. “She was determined that we would have a better life. And I think it’s that determination that still guides me today.”
Barra headlined the first Cummins Women’s Conference on March 11, 2016, in Columbus, Indiana (U.S.A.). More than 250 women leaders attended the day-long event, which was designed to guide and inspire women at Cummins.
Barra was elected Chairman of the GM Board of Directors in January 2016 and has served as CEO of the company since January 2014. She joined GM in 1980 as a co-op student at the Pontiac Motor Division.
She talked about her 35-year personal journey rising through the ranks of the company, maintaining one of the keys to her success at GM has been her ability to communicate her vision and persuade others to follow.
“If people don’t believe in you and the vision you are painting, they won’t follow you,” Barra said.
Cummins Chairman and CEO Tom Linebarger also participated in the event, maintaining recruiting and developing more women leaders is both good for the company and good for society, too.
“We know diverse teams solve problems better,” Linebarger said. “Data shows that when women are on the team, we do better.”
The conference also featured Georgia Nelson, a member of the Cummins Board of Directors, and other top female leaders from across the company. In addition to presentations, both speakers and participants also met in small group workshops as part of the conference to balance the inspirational messages with actionable knowledge.
“Being able to hear these inspiring speakers and then spend time sharing and learning from others was wonderful,” said Fernanda Beraldi, Ethics & Compliance Director, Latin America and Corporate Counsel.
Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer Marya Rose ended the conference with a call to action, saying women must now reach out and help each other achieve career success.
“We have to be each other’s best advocates,” Rose said. “We will not succeed if we do not help each other.”
Organizers plan to replicate the conference at different locations around the world.