As more women take on leadership roles in the automotive industry, we see the same shift within our own organization. In honor of International Women’s Day, we took the opportunity to ask two of the women leading CAR about the challenges they’ve faced, whom they look to for inspiration, and what advice they have to give women joining the industry today. Here is what they had to say:

 

Carla Bailo  |  President and CEO

What have been the challenges you’ve overcome working as a woman in the auto industry?

Starting in the industry in 1978, things for a women weren’t very welcoming.  Beyond just the workspace that had no rules or bounds on office layout or conduct, I was often challenged on technical points, so I learned quickly to speak based only on facts and when I knew I was right.  It was a time when I had to choose which battles to fight because I loved the industry and cars, so perseverance was key.  As I stayed longer at GM, then with Nissan, I continued to be technically astute and was recognized for this.  Then, gender didn’t matter quite frankly as my technical ability was clear.  I always strove to do my best and deliver on my promises – reliability is key.  Then, I forged my own career path and didn’t rely on anyone to create the path for me or wait for recognition.  This is key to moving forward – don’t expect anybody to recognize that you are doing a good job and promote you.  Be your own sponsor and advocate (men behave this way all the time)!

What woman in a leadership position do you most look up to?

First and foremost, in our industry, Mary Barra.   She has transformed GM in ways none of her predecessors could.  She has changed the game of chasing market share, egregious incentives, short term thinking focused on monthly sales to a long term, sustainable plan for the company.  Automotive OEM’s are facing change as never before seen and this requires foresight and bold steps.  She is staying ahead of the game as never before and changing, even disrupting GM.  Beyond the automotives, I remain so impressed by Notorious RGB.  As a supreme court judge, she really paved the way for equality for women in so many areas from controlling our own bodies, to equal pay, etc.  Lastly, as a scientist, Madame Curie has always been one of my heroes.  Her work was groundbreaking and inspirational to always seek a solution for an unknown.  Perseverance is a skill of an inventor – risk taking and failure – all needed to change the world.

What advice would you give to women coming up in the auto industry?  

First, love the industry or any industry you choose to work in…this gives you the desire to make a difference with the role you undertake.  It’s a tremendous time to enter the industry with all the changes in mobility which mean it’s an open door for innovation.  Be diligent in your role and always deliver results.  Plan your career path and don’t be limited if you “don’t check all the boxes” – think like a man in this regard and don’t hesitate to toot your own horn.  Demand respect and treat others as you wish to be treated.   Speak up and don’t hesitate with a good idea in a meeting – it’s OK to ask a “dumb” question as this is how you learn.  Keep learning constantly and stay abreast of all the new developments as this is fuel for your own creativity.

Lisa Hart  |  Senior Vice President of Operations

What have been the challenges you’ve overcome working as a woman in the auto industry?

Early on, I was the only woman in the room and that was intimidating since I was also very young when I started.  It’s been a fascinating journey though, given all the changes I’ve seen in the industry since I started my career.   

What woman in a leadership position do you most look up to?

This is difficult to reply with just one woman.  My sister Laura Adams is a senior vice president at JLL in Chicago.  She has offered insight and encouragement and a leadership perspective outside of auto.  Inside the auto industry, Elizabeth Griffith of Faurecia is impressive for her passion on workforce development and the roles of women and men in the industry.  And, of course, there’s Mary Barra – she is truly inspirational to me, and, more importantly, thousands of young women. 

What advice would you give to women coming up in the auto industry?  

Get involved in a professional organization, such as Inforum’s AutomotiveNEXT, to learn about where the industry is headed and to enlarge your personal network – there are many serendipitous connections that can provide opportunities and career-long friendships.  SAE is another excellent organization. 

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