100 Leading Women in the North American Auto Industry
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Crystal WINDHAM

Director, North American Passenger Car Interior Design • General Motors Co. • Age 37
 
 
 
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Why did you want to work in the auto industry? First of all, I grew up in Detroit, so I was surrounded by automobiles. The second thing is I found a love of art in high school. I took that ability and love and used it to design cars. Designing automobiles — it's a product that affects so many people. In interiors, a lot of designers talk about designing a second home.

First automotive job: I had a design internship with Ford in the summer of 1992, after my sophomore year [at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit]. I also interned with GM in interior design in the summer of 1993 and started with GM when I graduated in 1994.

Proudest professional achievement: Living in the moment, I would say the Car of the Year awards for the Aura and Malibu. I was a part of that design team that really changed the direction of where design could go at GM. And the position that I have now for me is a big achievement.

Current challenge at work: You always want to maintain a certain degree of freshness. You want to pull those fresh concepts from everyone. Also, I don't design Cadillacs, so we have to be even more creative on how we deliver what's expected and actually exceed the customer's expectations. That's what we did with the Malibu and Aura. We put the money where the customer would appreciate it.

Why does the auto industry seem like a difficult environment for female executives? The good thing here is that the female perspective is desired. It's a reflection of their market. Over the past 15 years, I can see a change. They know they need to see more women in higher positions in order for that voice to be heard.

On being Mommy to a 4-year-old and 6-year-old: I call China every Monday night at 8:30. And for the most part, that works out. But every once in a while, you have a child that's getting up out of bed and wants attention. So you end up managing, but sometimes you talk to the team and you say, "Hey, instead of 8:30, can we make that 9?" And that gives you time to get home, spend time with the kids, get them to bed, read them a story, and then you go work the conference call.

What you do to relax: Spend time with the kids or read with them, watch them play. And I like to get out and walk, exercise.

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