Company: GM Europe
Education: Master’s degree in mechanical engineering, University of Darmstadt, Darmstadt, Germany
Family: Husband, Harry; children: Michael, 21; Marcel, 18
I was hired by GM Powertrain as an engine design engineer straight from university. It was my desire all my life to work in the automotive industry. I was an only child and my father was really enthusiastic about cars. He was not an engineer, but not all enthusiastic car people need to be engineers.
What is a car without the engine? For me the powertrain is the most important. I would like to be a race car driver, but so far no success.
What is your proudest professional achievement?
I joined General Motors in 1977 so I have been in the business for more than 30 years. Also, if you go to Rüsselsheim or Turin or other sites and ask people about me, I think they would praise me for my technical competence and because of the way I treat people. As a female you have to be very professional.
In some situations, you have to be more professional than the guys. Women have to prove themselves a little bit more to be respected, accepted and wanted.
What is your proudest personal achievement?
I am really proud of my family. My husband and I had to decide whether to have children or just concentrate on the job. I am glad we decided to have a family. I never could have been so successful in my job without my family.
What is your current challenge at work?
To create and maintain the European engineering organization within the global context of GM.
The company has organizations in Europe, North America, Asia-Pacific and Latin America.
We are very proud of where we are in Europe with our products, which are fuel-efficient small engines and manual transmissions. Within the company, we are leading when it comes to these products. I would like to keep this leading position and become a leader in the industry.
2001 -- 2005: Managing director and executive director, product engineering, GM Powertrain-Germany
1999 -- 2001: Chief engineer of all GM Powertrain facilities in Europe
1997 -- 1999: Project manager responsible for the integration of the 2.2-liter ECOTEC gasoline engine into GM Europe platforms
It is still uncommon to have a female engineer in a man’s world. It will take years before we see an equal number, if at all. It might never be equal numbers. Interest needs to be created early. It starts at home when parents give their daughter a doll and then say to the their son, “Let’s go in the car.” Also, in some countries there is still an understanding that if a woman has children she will spend a few years with her children and family. This is very difficult for a female engineer because technology advances. If you are away for a few years it is tough to get back in again. Female engineers normally do not have a career plan, but in order to have a career you need to have a plan. Although it changed all the time, I had a plan. When I started I just wanted to have fun. Then I reached a point when I knew I was as good as my male colleagues so I thought, Why shouldn’t I think about a career?
What should be done to encourage women to enter the auto industry?
We need to do better recruiting from the universities. We also need to give the female engineers we hire a fair chance. In addition, we should not leave them alone after they arrive. They need to have mentors and role models.
Are women pushed toward marketing and communications and discouraged from engineering and other technical jobs?
No, I don’t think so. The problem is the universities don’t get enough female engineers. This happens because a young lady needs to decide to pursue this field in high school. Somebody may say, “Become a teacher because you can have a family if you are a teacher,” or “Are you sure you like all the technical stuff?” Only a few make it to the university.
In very traditional countries like Germany and Austria there is almost no change in attitude from when I started. But where I am now, in Turin, 13 percent of the engineers are female. This is great. In Rüsselsheim, it was only 3 percent.
In Sweden it is about 10 percent. I really think it depends on the country.