General Motors names its first-ever female CEO

Mary BarraNEW YORK: General Motors on Tuesday named its first-ever female chief executive as the largest US automaker pivots into an era of greater autonomy following the US government’s divestment of company shares.

GM announced that company veteran Mary Barra would succeed Dan Akerson as chief executive on January 15.

Barra, 51, currently works as executive vice-president for global product development, purchasing and supply chain. In announcing the news, GM said Barra is “a leader in the company’s ongoing turnaround” that has seen it reverse a long decline.

GM’s announcement came just one day after the US treasury sold its last shares in General Motors, closing the books on a 2008 bailout executed amid the financial crisis. GM and fellow US automakers Ford and Chrysler have gained on surging auto sales throughout 2013.

Barra has worked at GM for 33 years, rising through a series of manufacturing, engineering and senior staff positions.

An engineer by training, Barra has also served as vice president of global human resources, where she was credited with shaking up a corporate culture that had depressed profits and innovation.

Her GM-heavy background contrasts with Akerson, who joined GM as chief executive in 2010 after working on buyouts for investment firm The Carlyle Group.

Barra joins a growing list of prominent female chief executives across a wide swath of US sectors.

Other prominent female CEOs include IBM’s Virginia Rometty, Meg Whitman at Hewlett-Packard, Patricia Woertz at Archer Daniels Midland, Ellen Kullman at DuPont and Yahoo chief executive Marissa Mayer, who also serves on the board of the world’s biggest retailer, Wal-MartStores.