Why did you want to work in the auto industry? I wanted to work for Ford Motor Co. because it was No. 2 on the Fortune 500 list. I declined a higher-paying job at another company to work for Ford Credit.

First automotive job: When I joined Ford Credit in 1989, I had an entry-level position collecting past-due accounts. We called it "dialing for dollars."

Proudest professional achievement: I have been successful in a variety of leadership roles not only in North America but in Europe.

Current challenge at work: We're changing the mind-set where we have regional teams developing solutions locally and after the fact making them fit globally. We're developing a global mind-set from the start. Ford is developing global vehicles and platforms, and we need to be the mirror image of Ford.

Why does the auto industry seem like a difficult environment for female executives? Women need broad business acumen and stamina. The long hours can be a conflict, especially for young mothers. You need help from a supportive husband and a lot of planning.

On motivation: I began working for Ford Credit in the field operations. I recall several times going to meet our dealer partners. The sales rep would introduce me, and some of the dealer principals would look at me and say, "You could be my daughter." That's something my male counterparts didn't have to encounter.

What you do to relax: I enjoy being with my family. When we have time, we enjoy traveling, especially internationally.

— Donna Harris