DETROIT (AP) ― The incoming CEO of General Motors hopes her appointment as the first woman to lead a global automaker will inspire young women and men to pursue careers in science.
Mary Barra’s first appearance before reporters since getting the job in December eclipsed the glitzy rollout of the GMC Canyon small pickup truck Sunday at an old industrial building north of Downtown Detroit.
Barra, who officially takes the job on Wednesday, led the truck-unveiling ceremony and then was immediately surrounded by several hundred journalists.
Responding to a question about being an inspiration to women, Barra said she hopes her engineering credentials make her a role model for young people. “With my technical background ― I’m an electrical engineer ― and I can motivate young women or young men to pursue a career in science,” she said.
Barra, 52, who was appointed by the board on Dec. 10 to replace the outgoing Dan Akerson, avoided a question about whether she’s under more pressure at work because she’s a woman. “I come to work every day. I work my hardest. We’re focused on the goal. We’re aligned. That’s the way I look at it,” she said.
Barra gave 11 carefully scripted answers to reporters’ questions before leaving the building, repeating several times that the company is focused on its customers. She wasn’t directly asked about her plans to lead the nation’s largest automaker, but described her management style as “collaborative.”
Barra joined GM at age 18 as a co-op student, working for several months at a time at GM’s Pontiac division while studying for her engineering degree at General Motors Institute, a Flint, Michigan, college then owned by the company.
She graduated from GMI, now Kettering University, in 1985, and GM eventually sent her to Stanford University to earn an MBA. When she returned, she rotated through a number of jobs, including executive assistant to then-CEO Jack Smith, a role often given to rising stars. She headed midsize car engineering and managed GM’s Detroit-Hamtramck plant.