10 Fast Facts on Mary Barra, the First Female CEO of a Major Automaker

Mary Barra

In 2013, Mary Barra became the first female CEO of General Motors — and thereby the first female CEO of a major automaker. Previously the executive vice president of product design, purchasing, and logistics, Mary ascended to the role at the conclusion of the 2009 taxpayer bailout of the auto industry.

Here are 10 facts on this history-making woman:

1. She gets recognized in public.
Mary told the Detroit Free Press, "...People come up to me in Target when I'm wearing a ballcap hoping not to be recognized and say, 'Hey I'm really excited about that new vehicle.’”

2. She’s been at GM since she was 18 years old.
She started as a student at the General Motors Institute (now Kettering University) in Flint, Michigan. She studied engineering and has since held a variety of positions at the company in communications, engineering, and human resources. One of her favorite jobs was head of human resources, because she felt she "could drive some of the change we needed."

3. She has testified and apologized before Congress.
In 2014, Mary apologized for GM’s 10-year delay in issuing a recall for a faulty ignition switch, which ultimately resulted in 42 deaths and more than 50 injuries.

4. Mary was smart, but she wasn’t at the top of her engineering class.
However, one of her professors thought she possessed remarkable people skills that distinguished her from other engineers.

5. She is a second-generation GM employee.
Her father worked for Pontiac as a die maker for almost 40 years.

6.  Her mother never attended college.
And reportedly encouraged both Mary and her brother to pursue higher education.

7. GM’s board unanimously approved her for the CEO role.
Impressive.

8. Through her career, she has “seen more and more women” at GM.
In the past decade, she notes that there have been “many” female plant managers.

9. Her all-time favorite car is the Camaro.
Actually, it’s tied with the Firebird. As of 2013, Mary and her husband owned a Camaro SS.

10. When she was executive vice president of product design, her salary was $750,000 a year.
She earned $4.9 million in total compensation for 2012.

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