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