Maureen Kempston Darkes, 57
Group Vice President and President, GM Latin America, Africa and Middle East, General Motors
Education: B.A., history and political science, University of Toronto; L.L.B., University of Toronto
What your college professors didn't teach you: "Constant perseverance. You have to learn how business decisions get made. The reason for that is if you understand how the decision is made, then you can influence it."
First automotive job: Member of legal staff for General Motors of Canada in Toronto in 1975
Most fun automotive job: "I really enjoyed running GM Canada. That was truly a great honor."
Career highlights (all with GM)
- 1994-2001 President and general manager, General Motors of Canada, and vice president, GM
- 1992-94 General counsel and secretary, GM of Canada
- 1991-94 Vice president, corporate affairs, GM of Canada
- 1987-91 General director, public affairs, GM of Canada
- 1980-84 Director, GM of Canada tax staff
- 1979-80 Counsel, GM legal staff
- 1979 Assistant counsel, GM of Canada legal staff
Biggest mistake and what you learned: "There were some marketing programs we did that did not work out too well. I learned from them and realized I need to listen very intently to dealers and marketing forces."
Proudest achievement: "To be able to run a region like LAAM (Latin America, Africa and Middle East). We have returned to South Africa. I am proud of the growth in the Middle East, and we've grown GM business substantially."
Current challenge: "Maintain profits in our region. These are volatile markets that have to endure currency fluctuations and marketing conditions that change every day."
On being successful: "You need to have a constant focus. You need to set your goals very high and then communicate what the vision is. And sometimes you've got to just gut it out."
What about the auto industry surprised you: "How complex it is. When you look at what is involved in every aspect of business and public policy, consumer and government relations and the design and engineering of the product itself, it is so complex."
What women need to know for success in the auto industry: "Set your sights on doing something you truly enjoy and then try to add value. Forget traditional barriers. They are falling away very quickly. Go in with a philosophy that you can make a difference. You can."
What you do to relax: "My husband and I have a home in northern Ontario where we relax. I am also trying to learn to play golf."