Birgit Behrendt is the most-senior female manager at Ford Europe. She joined Ford straight from school in 1978 as an apprentice and worked as a secretary with the company until her potential was spotted by her superiors. In 1989, she became the second woman ever to join Ford Europe's purchasing team and quickly established herself as a tough but fair negotiator. She moved to the US in late 1998 to become program manager for global purchasing strategies. In 2000, she became director of global body and exterior purchasing. She returned to Europe to take up the position as vice president of purchasing in February 2004.
Name: Birgit Behrendt.
Title: Ford Europe vice president of purchasing.
Languages: German, English, Italian, French.
Family: Husband Norbert and a Persian cat named Peppi.
Countries lived in: Germany, USA and Iran [she lived there as a child during her father's three-year posting in the country when he worked with Bayer].
Education: Business studies degree from the Administration and Business Academy in Cologne, Germany.
First car: A dark blue Ford Fiesta.
What is in your garage now? A Focus, a Galaxy, a StreetKa and two Honda motorcycles that belong to my husband. I sold my Suzuki 650 Savage when I moved to the US (in 1998).
If you could work at another job what would it be? I'd be a novelist.
What time do you get up for work? At 5:30 a.m.
How long is your work day? About 12-14 hours, but that's not a problem because I have a passion for what I do.
Do you have an exercise regime? Yes, but I follow it with mixed results. I have a little gym at home and I try to use it three times a week.
Is there anything you dislike about your job? The enormous number of meetings.
How do you relax? I read, I do cross-stitch and I love spending time on our powerboat, which is moored in a marina in Detroit. I enjoy sitting there and just watching the water - you can spend hours doing this.
Where would you really like to live? On the water someplace where it is warm.
What do you treasure? Time for myself.
What is your strongest attribute as a leader? I'm good at communicating and can connect with an audience of any size. I'm also good at distilling things and can simplify complicated issues.
What do you dislike about yourself? I can get impatient if things don't happen fast enough.
What was the most fun you had in the past year? A vacation spent in the US on our boat.
What is your greatest extravagance? Nice shoes.
What talent would you most like to have? I'd like to be able to sing.
What is your greatest achievement so far? Where I am right now - I have come further than I expected - and having a good balance between my career and my private life.
What CDs are in your car? The Dixie Chicks and a mixture of other music.
What kind of books do you read? Mainly fiction and mystery/crime novels. I love browsing in bookstores and I have piles of books waiting to be read.
Has it been difficult being a woman in a man's world? No - but you definitely need a full-time person in the background at home if you have a demanding career. My husband put his career on hold to support me.
What's the biggest difference between how men and women do business? In my experience the difference is about personality, not about gender.