Here’s an interesting fact: the world’s first driver was a woman and the world’s first automobile was invented by Karl Benz, the founder of Mercedes-Benz and the car was called the Benz Patent Motorwagen. Bertha Benz, wife of Karl, drove the very first automobile over a distance of 100 kilometers on August 5th, 1888, a feat that caught the world’s attention and ushered in a world of horseless carriages.
Over a century has passed and the while the industry is more open to gender equalization, there are only a few women holding key leadership positions here and globally. Here’s a list of them. They have to hold double jobs managing huge companies and have time managing their households, which is a full time job in itself.
Mary Barra – CEO, General Motors
She is one of the most influential leaders in the American auto industry. General Motor’s CEO Mary Barra’s climb in the corporate ladder took many, many steps. She was a student in General Motors Institute (now called the Kettering University) as a working student in GM’s Pontiac plant inspecting hoods and fenders. After graduating college, GM gave her a grant to Stanford University for her MBA. She returned as a full time executive working in various divisions and positions in GM’s North American operations and eventually rose through the ranks and became a Global Vice President for various divisions. She became GM’s CEO on January 15, 2014 which made her the first woman to head a major automobile manufacturing company. She was also named one of the most powerful women by both Forbes and Fortune.
She is remembered to have spearheading GM’s vision to recommitting to quality in all levels and divisions and giving its best in customer satisfaction. Her three decades working in GM earned her a reputation in the industry for her integrity and talent.
Dhivya Suryadevara – CFO, General Motors
In 2018, GM made history again by appointing a young 39-year-old Dhivya Suryadevara as CFO, succeeding Chuck Stevens who retired that year. No other major automaker has ever taken two women in top executive roles.
Elena Ford – CCEO, Ford Motor Company
Elena Ford is the grand daughter of Henry Ford II and is the first female in the Ford family to ever hold a major executive position in the blue oval brand. She was appointed vice president in 2013 and became CCEO in 2018.
Ma. Fe Perez-Agudo – President & CEO, Hyundai Asia Resources, Inc.
On the local front, we have two women holding leadership positions in the auto industry. Ms. Agudo’s career began in the real estate industry where she had stayed for 25 years and in 2001, she was to lead a virtually unknown Korean car brand dominated by Japanese and American badges. In just a few years, she was able to lead Hyundai Philippines in becoming one of the top brands in the country. Hyundai is currently ranked 4th in terms of sales with a market share of about 8%. This is no small feat, and aside from her duties in Hyundai Philippines, she is also the president of AVID (Association of Vehicle Importers and Distributors), a non-stock non-profit organization representing 26 auto brands strengthening partnerships with the government, business sector, the academe and other related stakeholders promoting the growth of the industry by taking part in strategic policy thinking, communications and advocacy and knowledge capital building in engaging forums on the regional and domestic fronts.
Ginia Domingo – President, Motostrada, Inc.
Prior to becoming the president of Motostrada, the country’s distributor for Ferrari and Maserati, Ginia Domingo was the president of Columbian Autocar Philippines, then the distributor of Kia vehicles for seven years. She came onboard into Motostrada handling one of the world’s most powerful brand when Davao businessman and Duterte supporter Dennis Uy invested and became majority shareholder in the company founded by Wellington Soong. Most of her corporate life has been around the auto industry, starting in 1998 as a marketing assistant in Toyota, then moving up to several positions in GM Philippines and Ford Philippines before moving to Kia. She and Agudo are the only two women to hold leadership positions in the highly competitive and male-dominated auto industry.
Alvin Uy wears many hats, foremost among them being an executive for a home improvement chain and real estate developer and part of a family-owned chemical business. Aside from writing about motoring news and car reviews, he loves to write about traveling, food and wine reviews, mechanical timepieces and classic cars.