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Road to Power: How GM's Mary Barra Shattered the Glass Ceiling

ISBN: 978-1-118-97263-2
192 pages
March 2015
Road to Power: How GM

Description

Follow a pioneer's journey from factory floor to CEO

Road to Power is the story of how Mary Barra drove herself to the pinnacle of a company that steers the nation's wealth. Beginning as a rare female electrical engineer and daughter of a General Motors die maker, Barra spent more than thirty years building her career before becoming the first woman to ever lead a global automaker. With $155 billion in sales and 200,000 employees, GM is widely considered to be a proxy for the U.S. economy, making Barra's position arguably the most important corporate role a woman has ever held. This book describes the personal character, choices, and leadership style that enabled her to break through the glass ceiling.

When 52-year-old Mary Barra was named CEO of General Motors in 2013, only people outside of the company were surprised. She had done everything from working on the factory floor to overseeing manufacturing, from improving union relations to paring down bureaucracy, and from running human resources to helping drag the company back from its 2009 bankruptcy. This book details each step of her career, and the lessons she learned along the way.

  • Learn how Mary Barra's willingness to take on diverse assignments helped steer her career trajectory
  • Examine the fine details of Barra's management style and her ability to relate to colleagues
  • Discover the qualities and experiences Barra had that drove her to lead this male-dominated profession
  • Study the valuable lessons Barra learned at each stage in her professional life, and why they stuck with her throughout her journey to the top

Barra is most certainly a pioneer for women in business, but she's also a living lesson as to how far the right outlook, skills, and drive can take you in your career. Road to Power explores the talent and the mindset that got her all the way to the top.

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Table of Contents

Preface ix

Acknowledgments xv

Introduction Dodge’s La Femme: Women and Cars 1

Chapter 1 The Firebird: A Childhood Dream 7

Chapter 2 The Red Chevette: Driving Lessons 15

Chapter 3 The Fiero: Trial by Fire 25

Chapter 4 Chevy Blazer: Groundbreaking Laws 35

Chapter 5 Chevy Malibu: Expanding Vistas 43

Chapter 6 Buick Skylark: A View from the Top 51

Chapter 7 Oldsmobile Intrigue: Hearts and Minds 63

Chapter 8 Buick LeSabre: Fixing Hamtramck 71

Chapter 9 Chevy Avalanche: The Road to Ruin 81

Chapter 10 The Volt: Shocked into Action 87

Chapter 11 Chevy Cruze: “No More Crappy Cars” 97

Chapter 12 Chevy Cobalt: End of the Honeymoon 107

Chapter 13 Cadillac Escalade: Climbing Back 121

Chapter 14 Buick Encore: Finding the Next Mary Barra 135

Afterword 145

Appendix: Barra Biography 149

Bibliography 151

About the Author 153

Index 155

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Author Information

LAURA COLBY is a reporter at large for Bloomberg News in New York, covering women in the global economy and education. Prior to 2013, she was the managing editor of Bloomberg Markets, the monthly global finance magazine. Laura has also worked for The Wall Street Journal, Fortune, and the International Herald Tribune.

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Press Release

February 25, 2015
Road to Power Explores Mary Barra’s Inspiring Rise from Factory Floor to the CEO of General Motors

When Mary Barra started her first job on a General Motors assembly line in 1980, the 18 year old engineering student was greeted with catcalls and wolf whistles each day from male autoworkers unused to seeing women in their workplace. In January 2014, Barra became the first woman to run GM. 

In her new book, Road to Power: How GM's Mary Barra Shattered the Glass Ceiling, Bloomberg reporter Laura Colby explores how Mary Barra drove herself to the pinnacle of a company that steers the nation's wealth. Beginning as a rare female electrical engineer and daughter of a General Motors die maker, Barra spent more than thirty years building her career before becoming the first woman to ever lead a global automaker. With $155 billion in sales and 200,000 employees, GM is widely considered to be a proxy for the U.S. economy; making Barra's position arguably the most important corporate role a woman has ever held. This book describes the personal character, choices, and leadership style that enabled her to break through the glass ceiling.

Colby explains, “Of those who know Barra, who have followed her career, and who are familiar with the challenges facing the auto industry, rare is the person who argues that she is unqualified to lead GM. Most would say she got the job despite being a woman, rather than because of it. She has proved herself over decades, starting when she joined Pontiac as an 18-year-old cooperative education student. Along the way, she expanded her skills, made some smart decision, formed key alliances, proved her intelligence, and did lots of hard work.”

When 52-year-old Mary Barra was named CEO of General Motors in 2013, only people outside of the company were surprised. She had done everything from working on the factory floor to overseeing manufacturing, from improving union relations to paring down bureaucracy, and from running human resources to helping drag the company back from its 2009 bankruptcy. Through interviews with Barra and her former and present friends and colleagues, Colby details each step of her career, and the lessons she learned along the way, including:

  • How Barra connects with and motivates employees without being a pushover
  • The car that foreshadowed the Chevy Cobalt disaster, and the lesson Barra learned from it
  • How a confidential General Motors management-training program shaped Barra's career
  • How Mary Barra's willingness to take on diverse assignments helped steer her career trajectory
  • The qualities and experiences Barra had that drove her to lead this male-dominated profession
  • Valuable lessons Barra learned at each stage in her professional life, and why they stuck with her throughout her journey to the top

Barra is most certainly a pioneer for women in business, but she's also a living lesson as to how far the right outlook, skills, and drive can take you in your career. Road to Power explores the talent and the mindset that got her all the way to the top.

“In reporting this book, I learned that Barra, while exception, is not an outlier. She is one of a cadre of women rising through the famously bureaucratic corridors of power at GM and who are just coming into their own,” Colby adds. “This book aims to illuminate the steps Barra took in her career and in so doing, to provide ideas for others to follow, whether they are aspiring engineers or accountants, parents of girls, teachers, or human resource executives at companies that want to stop shortchanging half of the population – and half their potential customers.”

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