Dhivya Suryadevara is not the first 39-year-old to be named CFO of General Motors. Rick Wagoner was the same age in 1992 when he landed the position — a decisive step on a career path to CEO.
Wagoner's promotion 26 years ago was remarkable for an old-line company that never put any executive in a C-suite position until he (it was never she) was well into his 50s. Yet Suryadevara's promotion may prove even more significant.
Not just because she is a woman— GM already has a female CEO, of course. But her appointment blazes new trails. The native of India (and product of Harvard Business School, like Wagoner) reflects a new diversity at the top and is a sign GM will find and foster young talent, even when the company is not in crisis.
Suryadevara played key roles in the sale of Opel to PSA, the acquisition of Cruise Automation, the big bet on Lyft and SoftBank's investment in GM's autonomous vehicle business last month. Her promotion is a sign that GM can not only attract smart, young women to the auto industry, it will reward them when they excel.