The biggest change was the product life cycle. At AT&T, the cycle is very short, and it's all about customer relations. The challenge is carrying those concepts to the automotive world.
First automotive job: Vice president, corporate controller, Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., 2000.
Proudest professional achievement: Previously, it would have been coming out of the economic meltdown, realigning our business model, aligning product with inventory needs and getting our working capital strengthened.
But with Toyota impacted by the recalls, it has been an opportunity for strengthening teamwork. I have a strong relationship with my counterpart in manufacturing. So there has been a lot of rallying troops, making sure dealers have the financial resources and making sure suppliers can give dealers inventory. The financial role is to connect the dots, make sure the financial resources are there for the sales team. For dealer support, that could be rapid procurement, helping the call center increase staff within 48 hours, update our Web site and make sure dealer education is out there. It's behind-the-scenes connectivity. We're going to come out of this stronger.
Current challenge at work: It's all integrated. The role of CFO is to support the business, manage enterprise risk and drive the right information to the right people at the right time for decision-making.
Why does the auto industry seem like a difficult environment for female executives? It depends on which function they are in.
In finance and administration, there are more women than men, and [it is] quite diverse and representative of the demographics in our customer base.
In the sales arm, the movement required in the field isn't necessarily gender-specific, but the younger generation is more challenged with dual incomes. We try to have diversity of experience in functional expertise. But different parts of the nation require heavier dependence on dual income, so "the spouse" could be male or female.
The roots of the auto industry are fairly male dominated. The pipeline is strengthening with more women, more experience and more opportunity to rise.
On support: I am very engaged with supporting women to have choices, to help give them the development tools to have a choice. This is a priority globally for Toyota, so I was honored to speak with a group of younger, high-potential women within the parent organization in Japan. Within each culture and each region, it's a different maturing process. It's important to keep the pipeline strong.
In Japan, Toyota is helping women return to work by having three child-care centers and allowing new mothers to do part-time work until the children are of school age. There is college-coaching support for children to learn study habits, starting in middle school.
We are the "sandwich generation," with young children but also aging parents who live nearby. We are natural caregivers, but we have to learn how to support a multigenerational family. Men are more involved now. My husband has been strong support.
What you do to relax: Pilates. My husband and I spend a lot of time with our family. My son is a basketball fanatic; my daughter is a budding artist. We're taking a trip to Japan with an exchange program. I like to give back to the community, and Toyota makes it easy to give time.
— Mark Rechtin