General Motors' new CEO Mary Barra hopes her engineering background and position as the first woman to lead the top U.S. automaker will encourage young people to pursue careers in science.
Barra was selected in December to succeed Dan Akerson. Her experience as a global product director may be a sign that vehicle development will become a priority for the company, reported the Associated Press.
"With my technical background - I'm an electrical engineer - I can motivate young women or young men to pursue a career in science," she told AP.
Although Barra, 52, is a GM "lifer" – her father worked at the company and Barra has been there during her whole 33-year career – her appointment is unusual for a reason other than her gender. Financial executives, whom investors have criticized for lacking product experience, have long held the seat Barra will take over starting today. In looking to refocus the company's direction, GM may have chosen Barra partly for her well-rounded experience in manufacturing, engineering and human resources. Akerson has called Barra a "car gal" for her vehicle expertise and has praised her for having "brought order to chaos" in the global product development process.
GM's share price reflects investors' caution to laud the new pick, however. The stock closed at $40.02 on Tuesday, a .9 percent drop since the announcement of Barra's appointment; the stock hasn't fluctuated much in the same time frame.
"Akerson's tenure is too short and will be measured on whether or not he has chosen the best successor," independent auto analyst Maryann Keller said to Reuters. "She is an excellent choice, but you won't know that until she actually starts the job and appoints the people she wants to help her finish a job that is only partly done."
Barra will be GM's fifth CEO since the company filed for bankruptcy in 2009. Although she is the first woman to take the role, other women join Barra in the top ranks of the company. GM has four female board members and several women executives in senior management.
Some Twitter reactions to Barra's appointment:
Mary Barra interview on @SquawkCNBC ...very impressive. Love her candor, positive energy, quick answers. Hope she wins big at GM.- Suzy Welch (@SuzyWelch) January 13, 2014