Mary Ann Wright, 48
Vice President, Global Technology and Innovation Accelerator, Johnson Controls
Why did you want to work in the auto industry? I grew up in Dearborn, Mich. My dad was a Ford engineer. When I grew up, I was always around cars, and my dad taught me a lot about them.
First automotive job: Ford college graduate warranty analyst in 1988. I quickly realized that I had to get into engineering school.
Proudest professional achievement: Leading the Ford Escape Hybrid program was not only a really significant professional achievement, but it represented all the things I believed in. If I'm allowed to have two, at JCI we were the first company to put lithium ion in mass production on the road.
Current challenge at work: Helping to sort out the next generation of vehicle technology in terms of noninternal combustion engines, in terms of hybrids and electric vehicles. That's the challenge, figuring out what the market is going to look like.
Why does the auto industry seem like a difficult environment for female executives? Until 15 years ago, it was just a male-dominated industry. If you think about the engineering schools 15 or 20 years ago, there were predominantly males in the schools. Now that's changed significantly, but until recently the population of women in technical disciplines was not there.
How has the recession affected opportunities and the work environment for women in the industry? I don't think it has impacted women uniquely from anybody else. I do think as we're coming out of this, there's a new look to the automotive industry, and there's an awful lot of opportunities for women.
On a defining moment: What I saw pretty early on was Ford taking a bold move and putting a woman in a senior technical position. One of my girlfriends was the first female chief engineer, for the Aerostar [minivan]. That was really reaffirming that the hard work that I was doing was worthwhile, that there was an opportunity to grow.
What you do to relax: I'm a pilot. I don't get to do it as much as I want. I love to read, and I am a voracious workout person.
-- Dave Guilford