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GM CEO Barra Encourages Young Girls to Consider a Career in the Auto Industry

Despite small glimpses of recent progress, women have continued to be underrepresented across the entire auto industry. According to data collected by Catalyst, women make up less than one-quarter of the automotive workforce, despite making up almost half of the entire US labor force. Women only make up 17.9 percent of automobile dealers and only 9.9 percent of repair and maintenance positions. Female leaders across the industry want these numbers to change as the next generation enters the workforce.

“We need you,” was the message from Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors, during the Awesome Girls: Engineer Your World webinar in regards to the need for more women in the automotive industry. The webinar was open to the general public but was specifically aimed towards the Girl Scouts of the USA. Barra spoke alongside Sylvia Acevedo, current CEO of Girl Scouts of the USA and former NASA Engineer. The duo geared the discussion towards empowering girls to step into traditionally male-dominated fields without fear. 

Related: Why Aren’t There More Women General Managers?

“The auto world is considering how people move … and that is changing. We’re looking at different propulsion systems, ones that are friendlier to the environment,” Barra said, referring to GM’s push to be all-electric in the future. “We need more women who are studying STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) in school and in college because — we need you.”

Barra became the first woman to run a major automaker when she was named CEO of GM in 2014. Barra attributes her love for the industry to her parents who sparked her interest and supported every step of the journey that led her to where she is today.

“My dad worked for GM for 39 years. He taught me the love of engineering and cars and my mom said, ‘Mary, you can do anything and be anything. You’ll have to work hard, but you can be anything you want to be,'” Barra said. “I liked math and science in school and so engineering seemed like a natural pathway for me when I started college.”

See the source imageGM provides a grant to aid Girl Scouts’ STEM efforts

GM sees opportunities through the Girl Scouts to develop interest and prepare future leaders in the industry. The automaker launched a partnership with the Girl Scouts in July in which GM gave the organization a $1 million grant to create new STEM programs for the scouts. The grant also provided some supplemental STEM courses available to any girl, not just members of the Girl Scouts. The new program is available to all girls from kindergarten through fifth grade. Scouts can earn a series of automotive-themed badges such as engineering, designing, and manufacturing vehicles.

Related: How the Customer Experience is Improved by Women in Automotive

Barra encouraged girls to not back down from male-dominated fields, pointing to commitment and dedication as the keys to success.

“Commit yourself to what you’re doing like you’re going to do it for the rest of your life,” Barra said. “That kind of commitment is how you get noticed, then people want to help you and give you more projects.”

Her parting words to the girls were to find and follow their passions.

“The more things you do, the more confidence you’ll gain,” Barra said. “Find your passion because when you’re an adult you’ll be doing it all your life, and science and math will play some part in it.”

Did you enjoy this article from Josh Isley? Read other articles from him here.

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Josh Isley
Josh Isley
Josh Isley is a staff reporter for CBT News. Josh graduated from Auburn University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication. He is experienced in reporting trends and news in the automotive industry.

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