Meet the CEO of General Motors

Did you know that women make up just 25 percent of STEM professionals? One of these women is Mary Barra, the first female CEO of General Motors. Up next, she explains her road to the top and why more students should pursue an engineering degree.


Did you know that women make up just 25% of STEM professionals?

One of these women is Mary Barra, the first female C.E.O. of General Motors.

Up next, she explains her road to the top, and why more students should pursue an engineering degree.


If we expect our industry to thrive well into the future, we have to provide solutions.

I'm confident, no matter what you want to do, having a strong science and math background, and understanding technology, is gonna better prepare you to work in that area that you love.

And once you love it, that can mean every day is fun.

Even in the early years of my schooling, I always just thought math was fun.

It's probably part of my personality, but I think it's neat when you get a bunch of inputs or conditions, and then you have to figure out what the best answer is.

It's kind of like -- It's solving a puzzle.

And, so, when my parents realized that, they both really encouraged me to push myself and see what I could do.

Fortunately, I went to General Motors Institute, which is now Kettering University, and we had a co-op program.

So I got to work and see what engineers did, and then go back to school and know that that's what I wanted to study.

And, so, that's really what helped me.

Engineers do so many things.

I worked in the areas where we design vehicles.

I worked in the area where we did engineering and validation.

I worked in the area where we, you know, actually assembled the vehicles.

In all of those areas, there were engineers doing many different things.

And so I realized, if I had an engineering degree -- and I'm specifically an electrical engineer -- that I could work across a wide array of things.

And I loved all of them.

And that's when I also learned I love the car business.

One of the really interesting things that I learned in this role that surprised me is when people would come up to me and say, 'Hey, because you're in this role, it has convinced my daughter,' or 'my sister' or someone that they know, that they see somebody in the role, that they believe they can do it, too, and therefore they're following a STEM background.

And that, to me, is the most rewarding, that simply because, when people see people like them, they believe they can do it, too.

And I believe they can, as well.

At General Motors, we are big believers in education, because we think that is such an important component for every child.

And so we do a lot of work.

We do work with FIRST Robotics.

We do work with World In Motion.

And I've even had the opportunity to go spend time with a third-, fourth-grader.

And, you know, when I ask them, 'What do you want to be when you grow up?'

No matter what they say, it's got a connection to STEM.

Because if you look at industry today, there's not an industry that isn't being impacted or disrupted or transformed by technology.

One of the things that's great about World In Motion, and FIRST Robotics, as well, is they get to actually make something.

So it's not just people talking at them or reading about it.

They get to make something.

They get to see how it works.

They get to change it.

And, so, you know, they're really understanding the foundational principles of physics, or many other aspects of engineering.

So, I think when they actually get to do something, and then they get to make changes and see how they make things better, that's exciting, and that's where I see them, you know, get really excited.

And, also, the little competitions help, as well.

The teenagers, the boys and girls, or the young adults, that are either in K-12 or going to college right now, they are our future.

They will be the people that come in and help us really redefine transportation.

In the world of transportation, we believe we will see more change in the next five years than we've seen in the last 50.

And so it's vitally important that we have people who can help us create that new world and that new transformation.

The whole way people get from point 'A' to point 'B' is being transformed or disrupted.

And technology is a key piece of all that, whether you talk about electric vehicles or increased connectivity or autonomous driving, all of which require very strong STEM backgrounds to really create the future.

So, it is an extremely exciting time to be at General Motors right now.

And we're always looking for great engineers to join the company.

And, so, it will fuel our success.

Right now, for some of the technologies we're putting out, engineers have dreamed up a vision that they want to create, and then actually gone in and done the engineering to create an actual physical property that does that.

A great example of that is the Bolt, or the fact that we have 4G LTE in our vehicles and have connectivity, the fact that you can use your smartphone and beep the horn or unlock your vehicle or start it.

Those are all things that somebody said, 'Hmm, I wonder if I can do this?'

And then they used their education and their degree to make it happen.

So, clearly, if you're sitting in high school today thinking about what you're going to do, an engineering career, or science, math, computer science -- those are all great fields that we're gonna desperately need, and will provide exciting careers for in the future.