Mary Barra

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Mary Barra
Official portrait, 2022
Chair of the Board of General Motors
Assumed office
January 6, 2016
Preceded byTim Solso
CEO of General Motors
Assumed office
January 14, 2014
Preceded byDaniel Akerson
Personal details
Mary Teresa Makela

(1961-12-24) December 24, 1961 (age 62)
Royal Oak, Michigan, U.S.
SpouseAnthony Barra
EducationKettering University (BS)
Stanford University (MBA)

Mary Teresa Barra (née Makela; born December 24, 1961) is an American businesswoman who has been the chair[1] and chief executive officer (CEO) of General Motors since January 15, 2014.[2] She is the first female CEO of a 'Big Three' automaker.[3][4][5] In December 2013, GM named her to succeed Daniel Akerson as CEO.[3] Prior to being named CEO, Barra was executive vice president of global product development, purchasing, and supply chain.[3][4]

Early life[edit]

Barra was born in Royal Oak, Michigan, to parents of Finnish descent.[6][7] Her grandfather, Viktor Mäkelä, moved to the US and married Maria Luoma, a Finnish immigrant from Teuva. They lived in Mountain Iron, Minnesota, and had three children, including a son named Reino,[8] called Ray. Barra's father, Ray, married a second-generation Finnish American named Eva Pyykkönen. Mary was born in 1961.


Barra graduated from the General Motors Institute (now Kettering University) in 1985, where she obtained a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering.[9][10] Barra was inducted into the engineering honor society Tau Beta Pi[11] (MI Zeta class of 1985) and the honor society IEEE-Eta Kappa Nu (Theta Epsilon chapter 1983) while at Kettering University. She then attended Stanford Graduate School of Business on a GM fellowship, receiving a Master of Business Administration degree in 1990.[12]


General Motors[edit]

Barra started working for General Motors in 1980 as a co-op student when she was 18 years old.[13] Her job was checking fender panels and inspecting hoods, and she used this job to pay for her college tuition.[14] She subsequently held a variety of engineering and administrative positions, including managing the Detroit/Hamtramck Assembly plant.[12]

In February 2008, she became vice president of Global Manufacturing Engineering. In July 2009, she advanced to the position of vice president of Global Human Resources, which she held until February 2011 when she was named executive vice president of Global Product Development.[12][15] The latter position included responsibilities for design; she worked to reduce the number of automobile platforms in GM.[3] In August 2013, her vice president responsibility was extended to include Global Purchasing and Supply Chain.[16]

When Barra took over as chief executive of General Motors in January 2014, she became the first female head of an automobile manufacturer.[17]

During her first year as CEO, General Motors issued 84 safety recalls involving over 30 million cars.[18] Barra was called before the Senate to testify about the recalls and deaths attributed to the faulty ignition switch.[19] Barra and General Motors also came under suspicion of paying for awards to burnish the CEO and corporation's image during that time.[20] The recalls led to the creation of new policies encouraging workers to report problems they encounter in an attempt to change company culture.[21]

As CEO, Barra directed GM's move into driverless and electric-powered cars through acquisitions including Strobe, a startup in driverless technology.[22]

In 2017, Barra was the highest paid Detroit Three executive, with a total remuneration of $21.96 million.[23] In November 2018, Barra announced the closure of five North American plants and 14,000 worker layoffs.[24] Her decision was criticized by President Donald Trump, who threatened to remove the company's government subsidies in response.[24]

In response to a shareholder question in June 2022 question about reinstating dividends at GM, Barra said the company has a "clear priority" to "accelerate our EV plans" and to solely offer EVs by 2035.[25]

Boards and councils[edit]

Barra was a member of the General Dynamics board of directors. She serves on the board of directors of the Detroit Economic Club and Detroit Country Day School.[26][27][28] She is a member of the Stanford University Board of Trustees, the Stanford Graduate School of Business Advisory Council, and the Duke University Board of Trustees.[29][30]

In August 2017, she was elected to the board of Disney.[31][32][33] She was the 12th person elected to this board, and the fourth woman.[34]

In March 2022 she was appointed to the Homeland Security Advisory Council by Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas.[35]

Awards and honors[edit]

Barra was listed as 35th on Forbes Most Powerful Women list in 2013, rising in rank to fourth most powerful in 2018.[36]

In May 2014, she delivered the commencement address for University of Michigan's Ann Arbor campus at Michigan Stadium, and received an honorary degree.[37] In 2018, she received an honorary doctorate from Duke University and in 2022 she delivered the school's commencement address.[38]

Barra was ranked first in Fortune's Most Powerful Women list in 2015, up from second the year before.[39]

She remained in the number one spot in Fortune's Most Powerful Women of 2017[40] and Number 5 on Forbes World's 100 Most Powerful Women List in the same year.[41]

In April 2014, Barra was featured on the cover of Time's "100 Most Influential People in the World."[42]

In December 2016, Barra joined a business forum assembled by then President-elect Donald Trump to provide strategic and policy advice on economic issues.[43] However, she left the forum in 2017, following Trump's response to the Charlottesville protests.

Barra was honored at the 2023 Arthur W. Page Center Awards [44] where she received a Larry Foster Award for Integrity in Public Communication.

Barra was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in February 2018.[45][46] In September 2018, Barra was awarded the Yale Chief Executive Leadership Institute's Legend in Leadership Award.[47]

In Institutional Investor's yearly survey of top executives, the 2019 All-America Executive Team, Barra achieved the first place in the autos and auto parts sector.[48]

Barra was selected for the inaugural 2021 Forbes 50 Over 50; made up of entrepreneurs, leaders, scientists and creators who are over the age of 50.[49] In 2021, she was included in the Time 100, Time's annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world.[50]

Personal life[edit]

Barra is married to consultant Tony Barra, whom she met while studying at Kettering University, and has two children and two dogs.[3] They live in Northville, a suburb of Detroit. She also owns an apartment in Downtown Detroit.[51]

She has named the Chevrolet Camaro and the Pontiac Firebird as her favorite cars.[13] Barra can speak a little Finnish.[52]


  1. ^ Wayland, Michael (July 12, 2021). "Ford and GM replace 'chairman' title with gender-neutral 'chair'". CNBC. Retrieved July 21, 2021.
  2. ^ Muller, Joann. "Exclusive: Inside New CEO Mary Barra's Urgent Mission To Fix GM". Forbes. Retrieved November 23, 2020.
  3. ^ a b c d e Vlasic, Bill (December 10, 2013). "G.M. Names First Female Chief Executive". The New York Times. Retrieved December 11, 2013.
  4. ^ a b "Dan Akerson to Retire as GM CEO in January 2014 Mary Barra to Become Next CEO; Dan Ammann Named President". General Motors. Retrieved December 10, 2013.
  5. ^ Wayland, Michael (February 5, 2020). "GM swings to a loss in the fourth quarter as 40-day strike erodes profits". CNBC. Retrieved February 6, 2020.
  6. ^ Taylor, Alex (December 17, 2012). "Mary Barra: GM's next CEO?". CNN/Fortune. Archived from the original on December 14, 2013. Retrieved December 11, 2013.
  7. ^ Niskakangas, Tuomas (December 16, 2013). "New CEO of automotive icon is of Finnish descent". Helsinki Times.
  8. ^ "A Look at Mary Barra, GM's First Female CEO". The Wall Street Journal. December 10, 2013. Retrieved December 11, 2013.
  9. ^ "Mary Barra Fast Facts".
  10. ^ "Meet Mary Barra, Kettering graduate '85 | Kettering University Online". Retrieved November 23, 2020.
  11. ^ "Tau Beta Pi – NAE class 2018". Knoxville, Tennessee: Tau Beta Pi. Archived from the original on April 2, 2020. Retrieved April 2, 2020. Mary T. Barra, Michigan Zeta '85
  12. ^ a b c "Mary Barra: Executive Profile & Biography". Bloomberg Businessweek. Retrieved December 11, 2013.
  13. ^ a b "Mary Barra, G.M.'s New Chief, Speaking Her Mind". The New York Times. December 10, 2013. Retrieved December 11, 2013.
  14. ^ "GM CEO Mary Barra says too many women quit their jobs for the wrong reason". Quartz at Work. Retrieved April 13, 2018.
  15. ^ Bunkley, Nick; Vlasic, Bill (January 20, 2011). "G.M. Names New Leader for Global Development". The New York Times. Retrieved December 11, 2013.
  16. ^ "About GM: Mary T. Barra". General Motors. Archived from the original on January 21, 2016. Retrieved December 10, 2013.
  17. ^ Rebuilding a Giant: Mary Barra, CEO, General Motors, New Corner, June 5, 2015
  18. ^ "General Motors (GM): Safety Recalls Add Up to 84 in 2014". Zacks Equity Research. Archived from the original on February 4, 2015. Retrieved January 5, 2015.
  19. ^ "GM reverses openness pledge: Our view". USA Today. July 23, 2014. Retrieved July 23, 2014.
  20. ^ "Is General Motors buying awards for Mary Barra?". Autoblog. Retrieved January 21, 2015.
  21. ^ "GM CEO Mary Barra says too many women quit their jobs for the wrong reason". Quartz at Work. Retrieved February 26, 2018.
  22. ^ Vlasic, Bill (October 9, 2017). "G.M. Acquires Strobe, Start-Up Focused on Driverless Technology". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved October 17, 2017.
  23. ^ Naughton, Nora. "GM paid CEO Mary Barra nearly $22M in 2017". The Detroit News.
  24. ^ a b Ferris, Robert (November 26, 2018). "GM to halt production at several plants, cut more than 14,000 jobs". CNBC.
  25. ^ Wayland, Michael (June 13, 2022). "GM's stock closes below IPO price for first time since October 2020". CNBC. Retrieved June 13, 2022.
  26. ^ "Dykema Chairman and CEO Peter Kellett Elected to the Detroit Economic Club Board of Directors". Retrieved February 19, 2020.
  27. ^ "Detroit Country Day School announces new trustees, including GM CEO Mary Barra". The Oakland Press. Retrieved February 19, 2020.
  28. ^ Grossman, Jay. "GM CEO Mary Barra joins Detroit Country Day School Board of Trustees". HometownLife. Retrieved February 19, 2020.
  29. ^ Burden, Melissa. "GM CEO Barra joins Stanford University board". Detroit News. Retrieved February 14, 2020.
  30. ^ "Three Join Board of Trustees". July 2020. Retrieved July 3, 2020.
  31. ^ Golum, Rob; Welch, David (August 24, 2017). "Barra elected to Walt Disney board". Automotive News.
  32. ^ McNary, Dave (August 24, 2017). "General Motors Chairman Mary T. Barra Joins Disney Board of Directors". Variety. Retrieved May 1, 2020.
  33. ^ "GM CEO Mary Barra Joins Disney's Board Amid Successor Search". Fortune. Retrieved May 1, 2020.
  34. ^ "Disney Adds General Motors CEO to Board of Directors". The Hollywood Reporter. August 24, 2017. Retrieved July 26, 2019.
  35. ^ "MaryBarra". DHS. March 2022. Retrieved July 26, 2019.
  36. ^ "The World's 100 Most Powerful Women". Forbes. Retrieved June 26, 2018.
  37. ^ Goudreau, Jenna (2012). "Mary Barra". Forbes. Retrieved September 7, 2012.
  38. ^ "Mary Barra: Five Lessons From The Kitchen Table". Duke Today. Retrieved May 29, 2022.
  39. ^ "Mary Barra". Fortune. Retrieved October 19, 2015.
  40. ^ "Mary Barra". Fortune. Retrieved April 3, 2017.
  41. ^ "World's Most Powerful Women". Forbes. Retrieved March 29, 2018.
  42. ^ Iacocca, Lee. "Mary Barra: The World's 100 Most Influential People".
  43. ^ Bryan, Bob (December 2, 2016). "Trump is forming an economic advisory team with the CEOs of Disney, General Motors, JPMorgan, and more". Business Insider. Retrieved June 1, 2017.
  44. ^ "Mary Barra, Lester Holt, Jon Iwata headline annual Page Center Awards | Penn State University".
  45. ^ "National Academy of Engineering Elects 83 Members and 16 Foreign Members" (Press release). Washington, D.C.: National Academy of Engineering. February 7, 2018. Archived from the original on February 8, 2018. Retrieved April 2, 2020. For leadership in automotive manufacturing, product engineering, and product development.
  46. ^ "Class of 2018 Elected : New Members". The Bridge. 48 (1). Washington, D.C.: National Academy of Sciences: 47. Spring 2018. ISSN 0737-6278. Archived from the original on April 2, 2020.
  47. ^ "Chief Executive Leadership Institute Honors Mary T. Barra with Legend in Leadership Award". Yale School of Management. September 24, 2018. Retrieved July 19, 2019.
  48. ^ Whyte, Amy (November 13, 2018). "These Are America's Top Executives Jamie Dimon, Tim Cook, and Mary Barra are among members of II's 2019 All-America Executive Team". Institutional Investor. Retrieved March 29, 2019.
  49. ^ Gross, Elana Lyn; Voytko, Lisette; McGrath, Maggie (June 2, 2021). "The New Golden Age". Forbes. Retrieved June 2, 2021.
  50. ^ O'Kane, Caitlin (September 15, 2021). "Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are on Time's "100 Most Influential People" list". CBS News. Retrieved November 15, 2021.
  51. ^ Bennett, Jeff; Murray, Sara (December 11, 2013). "Longtime Insider Is GM's First Female CEO". The Wall Street Journal. pp. A1, A10. Retrieved December 11, 2013.
  52. ^ "Barra's Finnish roots". Yle Uutiset. December 16, 2013. Retrieved June 11, 2019.
Business positions
Preceded by CEO of General Motors
Preceded by Chairman of the Board of General Motors