First automotive job: When I was 21, I was a greeter and brought coffee and donuts to customers at my father's Oldsmobile store. When I told my father I wanted to be a dealer, he said I would have to start from the bottom. But if I was his son, I might have started in the sales or service department.
Proudest professional achievement: I have been blessed by ushering the fourth generation into my company, turning the business over to my children. I managed not only to be a woman in the auto business but built it to be very successful.
Current challenge at work: The biggest challenge is protecting your business and your employees from government regulation.
Why does the auto industry seem like a difficult environment for female executives? The industry is and has always been male-dominated. It was convenient for the industry to hire women when they were considered a minority, but we're not considered a minority anymore. We can talk about how the world is becoming kinder and gentler, but the truth is women, if they have families, carry a double burden.
Dream job: I wanted to be an architect. Now I just build and design houses on the side. My husband and I have built seven houses. I might go to architectural school.
On "why are you here?": When I was working with my dad, I was the second woman to go to the General Motors' Dealers' Son School in Flint, Mich. That's what they called it. It was a six-month program, and there were about 220 of us in the class. When I entered the classroom, the instructor looked at me and said the warranty clerk's class was down the hall. I told him I was not there for the warranty clerk's class, and he asked, "What do you need, honey?" I said, "I'm here to be a dealer — what are you doing here?" The first week was stressful, but when he saw that I was serious, we seemed to get through it.
What you do to relax: I read. I'm trying to learn golf, and I draft structural designs for houses.
— Donna Harris