100 Leading Women in the North American Auto Industry
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Carolyne WATTS

President • CAMI Automotive • Age 47
 
 
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Why did you want to work in the auto industry? When I was applying for universities I applied to GMI in Flint, Mich., because it was a cooperative program where you could go to university and work. So we worked three months and went to university three months. It was a way to earn my way through university.

I'm from Shawinigan, Quebec, a small town outside of Montreal. I went to school in Flint and worked at the Sainte-Therese assembly plant, which was a GM assembly plant outside of Montreal. It was shut down in September 2002.

First automotive job: Industrial engineer, body shop, 1986.

Proudest professional achievement: It's when I completed an executive M.B.A. within two years; four classes per session and working full time. That was quite a challenge.

Why does the auto industry seem like a difficult environment for female executives? I've never found it difficult. But there is a certain rigidness, especially in manufacturing.

Our schedules are difficult, there are three shifts. No matter what we say, women are generally the primary caregivers. When you're working on a midnight shift and you've got children, that aspect is a bit difficult.

But because I don't have children, I haven't had to deal with that. When I first started working and going to school, there weren't that many women in manufacturing. But since then there has been great improvement. There are more women — not as many as we'd like — but there are more.

What you do to relax: I do quite well at that. I enjoy gardening and cooking. A few years ago I was into horses, but when I starting breaking too many bones I switched to golf. I still have a horse, but he's enjoying retired life.

— Arlena Sawyers

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