And based on revenue--which is what the Fortune 500 is all about--she tops the rankings of women in charge of America's largest companies.
When Barra assumes the top job from current chief Dan Akerson on January 15, she'll be running the largest woman-led U.S. company, displacing Hewlett-Packard's (HPQ) Meg Whitman in that distinction.
Barra, 51, is the first female chief of a major U.S. automaker. She has cars in her blood. Her dad was a die maker for GM's Pontiac division for four decades. Barra attended college at the General Motors Institute (now Kettering University) in Flint, Michigan, as a co-op student; she worked six months of each year for GM in exchange for the company paying her annual tuition. She started in a Pontiac plant, graduated college in 1985 with a degree in electrical engineering and, over 33 years at GM, climbed to her current post as EVP of global product development, global purchasing and supply chain.
She earned the acclaim of her bosses for bringing new rigor to GM's famously dysfunctional product development process, Barra upgraded the cars and the corporate culture too. Previously head of global human resources--a role assigned to her in 2009, right after GM filed for bankruptcy--she relieved GM employees of onerous work rules and relaxed the dress codes.
You'll have to wait until next October to find out where Barra will rank on the 2014 Fortune Most Powerful Women list. But given the stature of her new job, she'll surely move way up from her No. 29 ranking on the 2013 MPW list.
The annual MPW list ranks businesswomen based on the size and importance of the business in the global economy, the health and direction of the business, the arc of the woman's career, and global influence. GM's direction has definitely been positive. Barra is copping the CEO job one day after the U.S. Treasury announced it has sold its entire stake in the once critically sick company. With a stock-market capitalization of $56.8 billion, GM is more valuable than HP, even as the stock of that troubled tech giant has almost doubled this year. IBM (IBM), which has a market cap of $192.7 billion, is the most valuable company run by a woman: Ginni Rometty, who is No. 1 on the current Fortune MPW list.
Here's Barra, interviewed by CNBC's Becky Quick, at the 2013 Fortune MPW Summit. And below is Barra, in our MPW Summit series on Breakthrough Moments in Leadership, explaining how she learned to motivate employees while running a GM assembly plant a decade ago.
Women in technology top the Fortune Most Powerful Women list. Sheryl Sandberg and Marissa Mayer move up. Meg Whitman slips. Who's No. 1? IBM rules again.
Ginni Rometty is Fortune's 2013 Most Powerful Woman in Business. The (IBM) chairman and CEO, who took charge at the start of 2012, takes the No. 1 spot on the MPW list for the second year in a row.
PepsiCo (PEP) CEO Indra Nooyi retains her MOREPatricia Sellers - Oct 10, 2013 9:00 AM ET
Meg Whitman's first report card as CEO of Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) comes this afternoon when the company announces fourth-quarter earnings.
In the 60 days since she took the job, Whitman has settled on a strategy (keep HP in the PC business), worked to raise employee morale (terrible after three CEO ousters), and lifted the stock (up 12% since her appointment). But the former eBay (EBAY) chief, who lost her race for governor MOREPatricia Sellers - Nov 21, 2011 2:09 PM ET
Ginni Rometty is the next CEO of IBM, the company announced this afternoon.
With that news comes a stunning stat: America's two largest tech companies will be headed by women.
Meg Whitman, who built eBay (EBAY), became CEO of Hewlett-Packard last month.
H-P (HPQ) is No. 11 on the Fortune 500. IBM (IBM) is No. 18.
Both women spoke at the recent Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit. Rometty's main message (and one that Whitman MOREPatricia Sellers - Oct 25, 2011 5:41 PM ET
What happens when influential women like Meg Whitman, Ellen Kullman - and a guy: Warren Buffett - get together? They share smart ideas and - forge unexpected new relationships.
FORTUNE -- Big topics -- the global economy, presidential politics, boardroom drama -- got plenty of airtime at Fortune's annual Most Powerful Women Summit in early October. Meg Whitman (No. 9), the new CEO of Hewlett-Packard (HPQ), outlined plans for calming the waters at MOREPatricia Sellers - Oct 25, 2011 5:00 AM ET
With Meg Whitman nabbing the CEO job at Hewlett-Packard--and the four women at the bottom of this list (below) new to the top job this year--America now has 15 female Fortune 500 CEOs.
Not a number to be proud of, but hey, it's a record and it is progress nonetheless.
Here are the women at the helm--including the rank of their companies on the Fortune 500:
11 Meg Whitman, Hewlett-Packard (HPQ)
39 Pat Woertz, MOREPatricia Sellers - Sep 23, 2011 2:00 PM ET
Meg Whitman is the new CEO of Hewlett-Packard (HPQ). Not interim chief. This is Whitman's for-real next big gig.
And it is big indeed, given that the storied Silicon Valley company has lurched from chief to chief to chief ever since the board, in 1999, eased out Lew Platt and recruited Carly Fiorina from Lucent (ALU).
Fiorina was the first No. 1 on the Fortune Most Powerful Women list, at the top MOREPatricia Sellers - Sep 22, 2011 5:05 PM ET
by Patricia Sellers
The takeaway was pretty discouraging this week when Fortune and recruiting giant Heidrick & Struggles (HSII) co-hosted a discussion on women and boards.
The participants -- members of the Fortune Most Powerful Women community convening in Washington, D.C. -- came up with lots of reasons that "corporate boards get a D for diversity" (the title of my Postcard on Monday). Such as: the club-like culture of boards, the white MOREPatricia Sellers - May 5, 2011 10:16 AM ET
Meg Whitman, the former eBay CEO who got trounced in the race for California governor last November, has a new career plan: Venture capital with Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.
By Patricia Sellers
Meg Whitman, who is in Hawaii until Wednesday with her neurosurgeon husband Griff Harsh, declined to comment, but sources close to her and to the venerable Silicon Valley venture capital firm say that Kleiner will bring Whitman in as a MOREPatricia Sellers - Mar 29, 2011 2:54 PM ET
by Patricia Sellers
I'm back from "vacation." Since the Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit (view sessions here) wrapped in early October, the "chronic networker" that I am (one of my Time Inc. bosses accused me of being this) has been racing around the U.S. -- LA, San Francisco, Palo Alto, Boston, Atlanta, Allentown PA, my hometown. I'm back on New York terra firma at last.
While I was out, I worked on MOREPatricia Sellers - Nov 2, 2010 11:31 AM ET
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