Mary Barra

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Mary Barra
Mary Barra 2014.jpg
August 2014
Mary Teresa Makela

(1961-12-24) December 24, 1961 (age 57)
EducationKettering University
Stanford University
OccupationChairman and CEO, General Motors
Salary$21.96 million[1]
Board member ofDisney
Stanford University Board of Trustees[2]
Spouse(s)Anthony E. Barra

Mary Teresa Barra (née Makela; born December 24, 1961) is the Chairwoman and CEO of General Motors Company.[3] She has held the CEO position since January 15, 2014, and she is the first female CEO of a major global automaker.[4][5] On December 10, 2013, GM named her to succeed Dan Akerson as Chief Executive Officer, and prior to that, Barra served as the Executive Vice President of Global Product Development, Purchasing, and Supply Chain at General Motors.[4][5]

Early life[edit]

Barra was born in Royal Oak, Michigan. Barra's parents are of Finnish descent.[6][7] Barra's ancestors are from the village of Kankaanpää, in Satakunta province, from the municipality of Köyliö. Her grandfather Viktor Mäkelä, moved to the United States and married Maria Luoma, a Finnish immigrant from Teuva. They lived in Minnesota's small mining town of Mountain Iron. They had three children, including a son named Reino,[8] also called Ray. Her father Ray married a second-generation Finnish American named Eva Pyykkönen, and Mary, was born in 1961. Ray worked for 40 years at the Pontiac car factory in Detroit, and the family lived in Waterford, Michigan. Barra attended Waterford schools in Waterford, Michigan. She is a graduate of Waterford Mott High School. She started working in the automobile industry at age 18, checking fender panels and inspecting hoods to pay for her college tuition.[9]


Barra graduated from the General Motors Institute (now Kettering University), where she obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering. She then attended Stanford Graduate School of Business on a GM fellowship, receiving her Masters in Business Administration degree in 1990.[10]


General Motors[edit]

Barra started working for General Motors at the age of 18[11] as a co-op student in 1980 and subsequently held a variety of engineering and administrative positions, including managing the Detroit/Hamtramck Assembly plant.[10]

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.[10][12] The latter position included responsibilities for design; she has worked to reduce the number of automobile platforms in GM.[4] In August 2013, her Vice President responsibility was extended to include Global Purchasing and Supply Chain.[13]

When Barra took over as chief executive of General Motors in January 2014, she became the first ever female to head an automobile manufacturer.[14]

During her first year as CEO, General Motors issued 84 safety recalls involving over 30 million cars.[15] Barra was called before the Senate to testify about the recalls and deaths attributed to the faulty ignition switch.[16] Barra and General Motors also came under suspicion of paying for awards to burnish the CEO and corporation's image during that time.[17] The recalls led to the creation of new policies encouraging workers to report problems they encounter, thereby altering the company culture.[18]

Over the course of her tenure as CEO, Barra has placed GM's focus as a company transitioning into the tech space by moving forward in the automated driverless car space with major acquisitions including Strobe, a startup focused on driverless technology.[19] Also in 2017 she pushed GM to develop the Chevy Bolt EV, beating rival Tesla in developing the first electric car priced under $40,000 with a range of 200 miles.[20]

In 2017 Barra was the highest paid Detroit Three executive, with a total remuneration of $21.96 million.[1] In November 2018 Barra announced the closure of five North American plants and plans to lay of 14,000 workers.[21] Her decision was criticized by President Trump, who threatened to remove the company's government subsidies in response.[21]


In August 2017, she was elected to the board of Disney.[22] She is the 12th person elected to this board.

Other 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. She also serves as a member of The Business Council. She is a member of the Stanford University board of trustees, and the Stanford Graduate School of Business advisory council.

Awards and honors[edit]

Barra was listed as one of the world's most powerful women by Forbes, for the fifth time, in 2016. She was most recently listed as the fifth Most Powerful Women, rising from 35th in 2013.[23]

In May 2014, she delivered the commencement address for University of Michigan's Ann Arbor campus at Michigan Stadium, and received an honorary degree.[24] In 2018, she received an honorary Doctorate from Duke University.

Barra was first in Fortune's Most Powerful Women list in 2015, up from second the year before.[25]

She remained in the number one spot in Fortune's Most Powerful Women of 2017[26] and Number 5 on Forbes World's 100 Most Powerful Women List in the same year.[27]

In April 2014, Barra was featured on the cover of Time's "100 Most Influential People in the World."[28]

In December 2016, Barra joined a business forum assembled by then President-Elect Donald Trump to provide strategic and policy advice on economic issues.[29] However, she left the forum in 2017, following Trump's response to the Charlottesville protests.

Personal life[edit]

Personal life[edit]

Barra is married to consultant Tony Barra, whom she met while studying at Kettering University, and has two children.[4] They live in Northville, a suburb of Detroit.[30]


She has named the Chevrolet Camaro and the Pontiac Firebird as her favorite cars.[11]


  1. ^ a b "GM paid CEO Mary Barra nearly $22M in 2017".
  2. ^ "GM CEO Barra joins Stanford University board". Retrieved April 26, 2017.
  3. ^ "Corporate Officers | Leadership |". General Motors. Retrieved 28 June 2018.
  4. ^ a b c d Vlasic, Bill (December 10, 2013). "G.M. Names First Female Chief Executive". The New York Times. Retrieved December 11, 2013.
  5. ^ 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.
  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. ^ "GM CEO Mary Barra says too many women quit their jobs for the wrong reason". Quartz at Work. Retrieved 2018-04-13.
  10. ^ a b c "Mary Barra: Executive Profile & Biography". Bloomberg Businessweek. Retrieved December 11, 2013.
  11. ^ a b "Mary Barra, G.M.'s New Chief, Speaking Her Mind". The New York Times. December 10, 2013. Retrieved December 11, 2013.
  12. ^ Bunkley, Nick; Vlasic, Bill (January 20, 2011). "G.M. Names New Leader for Global Development". The New York Times. Retrieved December 11, 2013.
  13. ^ "About GM: Mary T. Barra". General Motors. Retrieved December 10, 2013.
  14. ^ Rebuilding a Giant: Mary Barra, CEO, General Motors, New Corner, June 5, 2015
  15. ^ "General Motors (GM): Safety Recalls Add Up to 84 in 2014". Zacks Equity Research. Retrieved January 5, 2015.
  16. ^ "GM reverses openness pledge: Our view". USA Today. July 23, 2014. Retrieved July 23, 2014.
  17. ^ "Is General Motors buying awards for Mary Barra?". Autoblog. Retrieved January 21, 2015.
  18. ^ "GM CEO Mary Barra says too many women quit their jobs for the wrong reason". Quartz at Work. Retrieved February 26, 2018.
  19. ^ 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.
  20. ^ Ross, Christopher (April 26, 2016). "A Day in the Life of GM CEO Mary Barra". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved November 15, 2017.
  21. ^ a b Ferris, Robert (November 26, 2018). "GM to halt production at several plants, cut more than 14,000 jobs".
  22. ^ Golum, Rob; Welch, David (August 24, 2017). "Barra elected to Walt Disney board". Automotive News.
  23. ^ "The World's 100 Most Powerful Women". Forbes. Forbes. Retrieved June 24, 2014.
  24. ^ Goudreau, Jenna (2012). "Mary Barra". Forbes. Retrieved September 7, 2012.
  25. ^ "Mary Barra". Fortune. Retrieved October 19, 2015.
  26. ^ "Mary Barra". Fortune. Retrieved April 3, 2017.
  27. ^ "World's Most Powerful Women". Forbes. Retrieved March 29, 2018.
  28. ^ Iacocca, Lee. "Mary Barra: The World's 100 Most Influential People".
  29. ^ 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.
  30. ^ 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.

External links[edit]

Business positions
Preceded by
Daniel Akerson
CEO of General Motors
since January 15, 2014
Succeeded by