Mary Barra Will Lead the Auto Industry’s First Majority-Female Board

GM CEO, Mary Barra, has not only shattered the glass ceiling through her own career, she has also been quietly cracking it open for others, while also managing a challenging period of risk and uncertainty for the largest US auto-maker. Several years ago, as an executive at General Dynamics, I had several opportunities to brief Mary and other GD Board members, and always found her questions and comments to be insightful and very helpful.

I’m proud to say she and other key leaders I observed through the years shaped how I have evolved to be an effective public company Board member. It was certainly a milestone for the GM Board to elect Mary as the first female CEO of a major automaker. And it is exciting to see her lead GM into a new era with a strategy of innovation, and also leading the auto industry’s first majority-female board.

Source: Jeff Green, Bloomberg, April 18, 2019

Women will be the majority on the board of General Motors Co. later this year, after two male directors retire. It’s a first for an automaker and places GM among a small handful of companies with roughly the same number of men and women at the highest level.

GM’s board will shrink to 11 members, from 13, with two directors not standing for re-election at the annual meeting on June 4, the company said in its proxy filing. Jim Mulva, former CEO of ConocoPhillips, and Admiral Mike Mullen, former chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, are both 72, the retirement age for the automaker’s board.

The board will temporarily waive the retirement age requirement for Lead Director Tim Solso, also 72, for one year to assist in GM’s “period of transformation,” the company said. Six women, including Chief Executive Officer Mary Barra, and five men complete the slate of members up for shareholders’ approval at the annual meeting.

The shift comes as women are slowly gaining more power at the largest U.S. companies, lifted by pressure from investors and employees as well as state-mandated quotas. Researcher Equilar says women may now comprise half the members of Russell 3000 company boards by 2034, a forecast that’s shortened by two decades since 2016.

Barring changes in the composition of other company boards, Barra, and incoming Best Buy Co. CEO Corie Barry, will become the only female CEOs in the S&P 500 who serve a board with a majority women directors, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Viacom Inc. and CBS Corp., the only other two companies with a current majority of female directors, are both run by male CEOs.

— With assistance by David Welch