For Gilger, 57, it's a matter of ensuring the next generation of female automotive leaders is ready to step in, and comfortable doing so, when the time comes. She knows her high-level position allows her to help lay the groundwork for that.
"As I've advanced through my career, I think now sitting at a VP level and leading a business unit ... it's important that I'm creating an environment that allows other people to flourish and lead," Gilger said.
Gilger says she was lucky in her early years with American Honda — she didn't have to think about her gender when she went to work. She wants other people at the company to have that luxury.
"Whether it is your gender, your sexuality, the color of your skin ... [if] you show up and you produce results, you will succeed," Gilger said. "It's hard to ignore when you've produced good business results."
Gilger said she has encountered many working women who believe they have to be perfect at their jobs in order to keep them. Perhaps they think they need to get the highest performance ratings, or something of the sort, and chide themselves if that doesn't happen, she said.
When she detects those mindsets in workers at American Honda, Gilger gets real with them and tries to instill a crucial lesson she herself has learned.
"I say, 'Hey, I go home at night and I look in the mirror and I'm like ... I could have done that better or I could have done that differently. I want to get better,' " Gilger said. "We're not perfect. We're not 100 percent confident. But believe in yourself. We will make mistakes, but we'll learn from them."
While speaking with Automotive News, Gilger held up one of her coffee mugs. On it was a quote that she said she lives by, one spoken by the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: "Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you."