DETROIT The Chrysler group is increasing its efforts to help women climb the corporate ladder.
The automaker said Monday, Oct. 25, that it is funding a $50,000 grant to the Womens Leadership Forum, a Michigan group within the Womens Economic Club that trains and provides mentors for female executives.
The donation was a part of the companys plan to add more women to the auto industry and expand its base of female executives, Chrysler group COO Tom LaSorda said after a press conference.
About 40 percent of the Chrysler groups work force is women and minorities, and 18 percent of its executives are women. Although the number of female executives has increased nearly 70 percent over the past five years, LaSorda says the automaker wants those numbers to continually increase.
Each year we set internal goals of what our mix of women and minorities need to be, LaSorda said. Year over year we have made improvements to reach those goals.
The grant from Chrysler to the Womens Leadership Forum will be used to maintain the organizations eight-month leadership development program and the womens leadership index, a program designed to track leadership opportunities for women at 100 publicly traded companies.
Beth Lowery, chairman of the Womens Leadership Forum and vice president of environment and energy at General Motors, said the number of women in the auto industry is growing. But training and mentoring programs are needed to give women the skills and exposure needed to gain higher corporate positions, she said.
GM has a mentoring program for its female executives.
Maureen Kempston Darkes, president for GM Latin America, Africa and the Middle East, said GM is making strides to increase the number of women in its ranks and wants to boost its number of women leaders. Currently, there are eight female plant managers at GMs North American assembly operations and the number of female corporate executives at GM has increased about 90 percent since 1996.
In October, GM elected Ellen Kullman, group vice president of safety and protection at DuPont, to its board of directors. She is the second female board member.
Having more women in senior leadership positions can only happen if the pipeline is full of talent, Darkes said. And this only happens when women candidates have the opportunity for high quality career building experiences.