25 leading women in the European auto industry

image
Breaking the 'glass ceiling'
As women advance, auto industry must be flexible

The glass ceiling. Eight years into a new century -- and more than a century after the invention of the automobile -- the glass ceiling remains a reality for women in the auto industry. Yes, progress has been made. Women are breaking through that ceiling and slowly transforming the automotive centers around Europe.

Cristina Siletto

image 

What was your first automotive job?
I was responsible for self-diagnosis systems for engine management systems at Fiat Auto.
What is your proudest professional achievement?
Having started production of the Fiat Grande Punto at the planned cost and two months ahead of schedule.
What is your proudest personal achievement?
Both on the professional and the personal side, so far I have achieved more than I could have expected. Probably I was also lucky.
What was your biggest mistake and what did you learn from it?
It was a team error, not just mine. We had just frozen the styling of the Fiat Grande Punto but decided to change the shape of the rear door. At that time, I accepted the late modification because it made the car look  story  May 12, 2008 06:01 European CT
   • Breaking the 'glass ceiling'


Birgit Behrendt

image 

What was your first automotive job?
Apprentice at Ford-Werke in Cologne, Germany. My parents suggested that I apply at Ford. I was surprised to get the job.
What is your proudest professional achievement?
To be where I am today. It is an excellent achievement for a man or a woman.
What is your proudest personal achievement?
I am able to balance private and professional life because my husband has given up his career. He stays at home and supports me. He is a fantastic cook and takes care of our private life. He likes this solution and is happy with it. This arrangement gives me the opportunity to engage in my job the way I do.
What was your biggest mistake and what did you learn from it?
I should have gone to college right  story  May 12, 2008 06:01 European CT
   • Breaking the 'glass ceiling'


Anja Kleyboldt

image 

What was your first automotive job and why were you interested in the industry?
I was a planning engineer in the bodyshop in Rüsselsheim after I did an apprenticeship with a car mechanic after high school.
I was always interested in the auto industry and my friends and I were always around cars.
I was interested in stock cars, driving them, rebuilding old cars and then wrecking them and rebuilding them again. It was not just the racing, it was getting the car ready for the next race.
What is your proudest professional achievement?
To sit here in general assembly and to be part of the launch of the Insignia. I am the general assembly leader, and I lead the launch and pilot teams. All the stuff needs to be there; the people need to be trained and have the  story  May 12, 2008 06:01 European CT
   • Breaking the 'glass ceiling'


Barbara Richmond

image 

What was your first automotive job?
Group finance director of Inchcape.
What is your proudest professional achievement?
In a previous position I was involved in selling off some of the company's businesses. The financial success of this project was central to the survival of the company.

What is your current challenge at work?
The implementation of global systems for the business. Also, Inchape is entering a new phase of its strategic development so we have the challenge of managing that. I'm new to both the automotive and retail sectors and I'm finding the experience very exciting and interesting.
What about the auto industry surprised you?
That motor retailing is so local and country specific. There are very few  story  May 12, 2008 06:01 European CT
   • Breaking the 'glass ceiling'


Martina Merz

image 

What was your first automotive job?
My first job was to work on the manufacturing technology of car diagnostic systems at Bosch. I was only 22 when I started, and 25 when I got my first management job. My career in the auto industry was the result of my decision to go to a technical primary school at the age of 16. I already knew then that I wanted to get a job in the automotive industry.
What is your proudest professional achievement?
That I have helped to success-fully reorganize some business areas so they could start achieving sustainable growth again.

What is your proudest personal achievement?
My colleagues say I am still authentic. I am proud to have a very good relationship and a good network throughout all hierarchy levels.
 story  May 12, 2008 06:01 European CT
   • Breaking the 'glass ceiling'


Glenda Minor

image 

What was your first automotive job?
With GM working at a manufacturing plant on an executive- rotation program.
Why did you seek a job in the auto industry?
It had to do with a love of cars. I had brothers who worked on cars, and one of the requirements of being a member of my family was to know how to change flat tires, tune engines and change oil. Also, the auto industry was booming in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and I saw long-term potential in it.
What is your proudest professional achievement?
This award combined with one of my proudest personal achievements -- it was that stage in my life when we moved from Texas to Michigan. I had a promotion, my son was four months old, and I was doing my MBA. I was able to balance all those things  story  May 12, 2008 06:01 European CT
   • Breaking the 'glass ceiling'


Lena Olving

image 

What was your first automotive job?
Manufacturing engineer at Volvo Car Components.
What is your proudest professional achievement?
Winning the J.D. Power silver quality award when I was plant manager in Torslanda. I am also proud of my time outside the motor industry when I was CEO of Samhall Högland. This is a government-owned company that supports work opportunities for people with physical or intellectual disabilities.
What is your proudest personal achievement?
Giving birth to my children.
What is your current challenge at work?
There is a constant stream of ideas and initiatives being proposed within Volvo. One of the challenges for me is to evaluate and prioritize which ones we should pursue and how to manage them to  story  May 12, 2008 06:01 European CT
   • Breaking the 'glass ceiling'


Liliane Lacourt

image 

Did you need any persuading to enter the auto industry?
Jacques Calvet, who hired me, was the most famous CEO in France at the time. I was anxious but everyone around me said, )x("”",You cannot refuse such a challenge.”
What surprised you most when you joined PSA from the French electricity group EDF in 1990?
First, it was the level of competition between carmakers -- we didn't have such competition at the state electricity company. Second, it was the quantity and quality of communications in the sector.
What is your proudest professional accomplishment?
To have worked with three CEOs at PSA as different as Jacques Calvet, Jean-Martin Folz and Christian Streiff. Also, I'm proud of the team that I work with.
What is your proudest personal  story  May 12, 2008 06:01 European CT
   • Breaking the 'glass ceiling'


Sara Cummings

image 

What was your first automotive job?
I was brought in to run the Jaguar F-Type program and develop it. This was a mid-price sports car based on the concept that had just been shown at the Detroit auto show. It was designed to compete with the Porsche Boxster. The whole team was really passionate about it. On the F-Type we were working toward the main program approval gateway. When we got the news that it had been put on hold, everyone was so disappointed.
What is your proudest professional achievement?
I started my last role -- global communications director for Land Rover -- just as they were going through a massive range of product launches. We started off by saying there were huge opportunities to modernize the brand. So using my team here and linking with  story  May 12, 2008 06:01 European CT
   • Breaking the 'glass ceiling'


Isabel Marey-Semper

image 

Why did you seek a job in the auto industry?
I didn't actually go looking for a job in the automotive sector. I went looking for a job with PSA, which is a very large French company, and whose values -- sharing, working in a team environment, being results-oriented -- are similar to my own.
[PSA CEO] Christian Streiff asked me to come in for an interview. The post that was proposed -- vice president of strategy and innovation -- was an excellent opportunity. And this seemed to be the synthesis of my past experiences, because I started as a researcher, and had previously worked with the automotive sector.
There were really three big reasons I came to PSA: its values, my previous working relationship with the CEO, and the position offered.
What is your proudest  story  May 12, 2008 06:01 European CT
   • Breaking the 'glass ceiling'


Beatrice Foucher

image 

What was your first automotive job?
With Renault, in 1989, in the quality control division.
Why did you seek a job in the auto industry?
I wanted to work for a large firm, which is why I tried the packaged food sector. What I found was that Nestle was a pure marketing play. I tested it, and found it quite interesting, but )x("”",yogurt” wasn't really for me. I had the same experience with Air Liquide, which is also an interesting company, but the product, gas, was just too immaterial. Renault offered a product with high added value in the right environment.
What is your proudest professional achievement?
I was head of development for the Espace, which is one of the signature vehicles of the Renault brand.
What is your proudest personal  story  May 13, 2008 05:53 European CT
   • Breaking the 'glass ceiling'


Christine Gaskell

image 

What was your first automotive job?
Graduate trainee with British Leyland.
What is your proudest professional achievement?
Being part of the success that has been achieved at Bentley in recent years.
What is your proudest personal achievement?
It's a personal and a professional achievement. I am proud of the development of my team at Bentley. I couldn't do what I do without them. Their success is my success.
What was your biggest mistake and what did you learn from it?
I've never made one big mistake but there are things I would like to have done differently. Looking back I think I could have been more ambitious in my career. I think women are inclined to limit themselves.
What is your current challenge at work?  story  May 13, 2008 05:45 European CT
   • Breaking the 'glass ceiling'


Rita Forst

image 

What was your first automotive job?
I was hired by GM Powertrain as an engine design engineer straight from university. It was my desire all my life to work in the automotive industry. I was an only child and my father was really enthusiastic about cars. He was not an engineer, but not all enthusiastic car people need to be engineers.
Why engines?
What is a car without the engine? For me the powertrain is the most important. I would like to be a race car driver, but so far no success.
What is your proudest professional achievement?
I joined General Motors in 1977 so I have been in the business for more than 30 years. Also, if you go to Rüsselsheim or Turin or other sites and ask people about me, I think they would praise me for my technical  story  May 13, 2008 05:37 European CT
   • Breaking the 'glass ceiling'


Annette Grimm

image 

What was your first automotive job?
I started working in the human resources department at Siemens Automotive Group.
What is your proudest professional achievement?
I am proud to have taken some steps up the job ladder in the company. That is a goal I have focused on since 1991.
What is your proudest personal achievement?
Still to be married after 20 years. That's not common today and is not easy to achieve. With the work load, there is not much time to care for your family.
What was your biggest mistake and what did you learn from it?
I had to head a reorganization program in my last job. We had millions in losses over some years. We negotiated with the workers union and decided to pay the employees for the work they were  story  May 13, 2008 05:29 European CT
   • Breaking the 'glass ceiling'


Sue Brownson

image 

What was your first automotive job?
Finance director at Blue Bell Wilmslow in 1975.
What is your proudest professional achievement?
Becoming the first female vice chairman of the Royal Automobile Club and managing a loyal and committed team.
What is your proudest personal achievement?
My eight engaging grandchildren.
What is your current challenge at work?
Developing a new dealership that involves bringing two outlets together on a new site and doubling the size.
What was your biggest mistake and what did you learn from it?
I've made lots of mistakes but no single )x("”",big” mistake. Looking back now I would say I was too cautious initially.
What about the auto industry surprises you?
The lack  story  May 13, 2008 05:20 European CT
   • Breaking the 'glass ceiling'


Annette Winkler

image 

How did you become interested in the automotive industry?
As a child, I admired Mercedes. I particularly liked the S-class sedan. I had an interest in cars from a young age and I had a brother who taught me a lot about cars.
What was your first automotive job?
I was head of the press department at Mercedes-Benz Cars between 1995 and 1997.
What is your proudest professional achievement?
My proudest achievement is getting a license to drive heavy trucks in nine days. When I was appointed as a director of a large Mercedes-owned dealership in Brunswick, Germany, there were many truck customers at the time in that region. I knew that if I didn't understand those customers because if you don't understand those customers it would be difficult to  story  May 13, 2008 05:12 European CT
   • Breaking the 'glass ceiling'


Sophie Desormiere

image 

What was your first automotive job?
Production quality manager, responsible for quality developments and systems, at Geffica.
I had five direct employees, and was responsible for two sites, one in France and one in Tunisia. It was already a challenge to be a woman, leading a set of quality systems, in a country where women don't usually have leading management positions. But that was why I took the job.
What is your proudest professional achievement?
I initiated a consumer-driven marketing approach, which was really a step forward for Valeo.
When re-evaluating the product portfolio, I saw that 60 percent of the portfolio was directly perceived by the end-user. I decided that we had to better understand what they wanted, by developing consumer clinics, by  story  May 13, 2008 05:03 European CT
   • Breaking the 'glass ceiling'


Gundula Haase

image 

What was your first automotive job?
It was with Ford in Cologne in 1999 as a company lawyer.
Why did you seek a job in the auto industry?
I love cars and I wanted to work in a job where I could love the product, but I also sought a global company.

What is your proudest professional achievement?
I hope it's still coming, but passing the state exams was a proud moment because that is one of the toughest times you face in Germany. You cannot fail parts, you either make it all the way through, or not at all.
There were also several joint ventures which I was in charge of at Ford and in my previous jobs. In addition, establishing a small but very efficient legal team in Mazda Europe.
What is your proudest personal achievement?  story  May 13, 2008 04:55 European CT
   • Breaking the 'glass ceiling'


Elke Eller

image 

What was your first automotive job?
I started as a scientific consultant for foundations and trade unions at the metalworkers' trade union IG Metall in Frankfurt. After a few years I switched to another department and worked on data analysis in the car industry.
What is your proudest professional achievement?
That I was able to get inside a man's world. I was brought up in a family where we were taught that a woman could do the same jobs as a man. So I always believed it would be possible to be part of the men's club, if I wanted to be.
What is your proudest personal achievement?
I am very proud of my kids. At the office, I am a workhorse, but at home my family is my first priority. When I am at home with my children I always concentrate on  story  May 13, 2008 04:45 European CT
   • Breaking the 'glass ceiling'


Andrea Urban

image 

What was your first automotive job?
My first job was in corporate research and advance engineering at Bosch near Stuttgart. This continues to be my area of responsibility, namely process development for micro-mechanical elements and sensors.
Why did you seek a job in the auto industry?
Naturally, after your studies are finished, you apply for many different jobs. Bosch was one of the companies I applied to and I chose it for two reasons: because the position matched what I had been studying, and because Bosch is such a good company and has such a good reputation. This is how I ended up in the auto industry.
What is your proudest professional achievement?
The fact that the Bosch Process, which I helped develop some time ago, enjoys such success  story  May 13, 2008 04:28 European CT
   • Breaking the 'glass ceiling'


Lucie Toscani

image 

What was your first automotive job?
I started as a trainee at Volkswagen in Wolfsburg. After 15 months I joined the purchasing department as a buyer for the paint shops for VW, Audi, Skoda and Seat.
What is your proudest professional achievement?
At age 25, I was the youngest person to pass the assessment center for management positions at Volkswagen. I had my first job as an executive at age 27.
What is your proudest personal achievement?
Despite a challenging job and lots of travel, I have a very close relationship to my family and make my family my first priority.
What is your current challenge at work?
There are actually two.
As you know, Continental acquired Siemens VDO last year and one of my biggest challenges is  story  May 13, 2008 04:17 European CT
   • Breaking the 'glass ceiling'


Anne Asensio

image 

What was your first automotive job?
Three internships with Renault from 1984 to 1986. After that, I stayed with Renault for 13 years.
What is your proudest professional achievement?
It is a difficult question -- managing design production teams, designing show cars, absolute experiences like the Cadillac Sixteen concept with GM or the Scenic show car at Renault, my first intense project building a design team or revamping a design process also helped me develop my skills and provided great personal rewards. But I am not focused on great experiences from the past. I would much rather think about what's coming next.

What is your proudest personal achievement?
My family. The car industry is a time-consuming industry and design never stops, and  story  May 13, 2008 04:09 European CT
   • Breaking the 'glass ceiling'


Marie-Christine Caubet

image 

How did you become inter-ested in the automotive industry?
It was really by accident, rather than a deliberate choice to be honest. I had just finished university and I really wanted a job at an international company. When a position with Renault came up, it was a great opportunity so I took it. I don't regret it a single bit.
What's your proudest professional achievement?
It was when I was director for Renault France Automobiles. I had been given two years to completely restructure the Renault-owned dealership network. This area of the business had traditionally been a loss-maker for the company. Within two years, my team and I made it profitable again.
What's your proudest personal achievement?
To have successfully maintained a good work-  story  May 13, 2008 04:01 European CT
   • Breaking the 'glass ceiling'


Diana Körner

image 

What was your first automotive job?
I started in 1978 at the age of 26 as an HR specialist for hourly and salaried administration at Ford in the product development group.
Why did you seek a job in the auto industry?
I was always sure that I wanted to work in a major industry. My goal when at school was to work for an international company, and in the Cologne region Ford was the main employer that worked internationally. It was more the global aspect than the car side that I was looking for.
What is your proudest professional achievement?
When I was an HR manager -- my first leadership role -- I did the separation of Visteon from Ford. I was asked by my boss back at Ford to take 150 people, mainly product development people and engineers, out  story  May 13, 2008 03:52 European CT
   • Breaking the 'glass ceiling'


Odile Desforges

image 

What was your first automotive job?
I was a director of planning at Renault. I was responsible for strategic studies in the area of new technology. I enjoyed it because I had the chance to have immediate contacts with the different managers of units within Renault. For a first job, you could develop an understanding of what were the fundamental challenges facing an automaker.
What is your proudest professional achievement?
When I was appointed president of the 3P business unit (product planning, product development, purchasing project). I had to build up the whole unit from scratch within one year, which was really exciting.
What is your proudest personal achievement?
Seeing my children get a good education. As a woman, perhaps the biggest  story  May 13, 2008 03:24 European CT
   • Breaking the 'glass ceiling'

Subscribe
 
 
Most Read
Special Report
How a Texas Toyota store solved used-car-supply challenge

How a Texas Toyota store solved used-car-supply challenge

Mike Shaw Toyota in Corpus Christi, Texas, struggled to find good used cars. So it started providing free appraisals to service customers and offered to buy their vehicles on the spot. Mon., April 14
» Watch the Video
     
Rocket Fuel