Posted by: conservativecritic | April 4, 2014

GM CEO Mary Barra – Unprepared for the job…or just a Company Sacrificial Lamb?

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Why this woman is not in jail for her knowledge and complicity in the GM parts failures…is beyond me…
Mary BarraWe’ve written extensively in the past of the disasters that have befallen many large American companies when a woman is placed in the top position in the organization…The list could easily fill this page…and of course we could find a similar list for men failing in that top position as well. I’ve experienced working for a female boss in the technical world for a short period of time, and while it has its interesting aspects, it was an unmitigated disaster for the overall business environment and for those around her.

The difference in this issue is the ratio of men to women in these top positions versus the percentage of failures in each gender.  Depending on which survey you consult, women hold between 20 and 25 percent of top level management jobs globally and between 4 to 6 percent of CEO positions.  In California, that percentage of women holding CEO positions drops to about 3 percent, with the greatest representation occuring in public and private service operations versus technical and manufacturing operations.

Women CEO failures tend to fly under the radar in the media for the most part, but companies like Lucent, Sara Lee, Reynolds America, Xerox, Avon, Rite Aid, Golden West, Ebay, HP and Yahoo retrospectively wish they had never put a women in charge of the operation.  Yes, there are exceptions and fleeting examples of success such as General Dynamics but the larger unionized and non-unionized nuts and bolts industries have never done well with female direction.

Which brings us back to Mary Barra, the neophyte CEO of General Motors, currently on the carpet with Congress and other Federal organizations for apparently covering up serious vehicle design errors which have caused several fatalities and hundreds of injuries…or alternatively being “out of the loop” or “missing the data” when it came to taking over GM’s top position.

Barra, who claims to have an engineering background, seems like a cool customer in the Congressional hearings but has welched or wiggled away on virtually every important aspect of the problem which could turn the Congressional fact finding operation into fruitful results versus repeated denials and obfuscations.

As an engineer, and even more so at an executive level in GM, not hearing about this on-going parts failure is both unbelievable and unforgivable…Worse, she admitted that she had not even read any of the thousands of pages of corporate data detailing the history of the parts problems.  It appears that she was unprepared for this new job…or perhaps she should have boned up on the parts problem before being grilled in the Congressional hearings hot seat.

While Barra attempted to separate herself from decisions that were made before she became GM’s CEO and the first woman to be placed in charge of a major U.S. automaker, the senators weren’t accepting excuses.

“You’re new at your job, but you’ve been at GM for how many years?” Sen. Barbara Boxer, a Califronia Democrat, asked Barra, who has worked for the automaker for 33 years. “You’re a really important person to this company. Something is very strange that such a top employee would know nothing.”

The flip side of this issue is that perhaps GM knew about this problem all along….at executive levels in the company …and when the previous CEO left the company, the Board of Directors may have decided to throw Mary Barra under the bus since there is always a sacrificial lamb at a significant management level when a serious corporate issue is about to be hung out on the laundry line.

Perhaps sensing that Barra was not up to the task of defending the faulty parts process, and knowing that someone would have to take the fall for it, she may have been the obvious choice for the CEO position.

We may never find out the complete story – but in the history of the heavy manufacturing business in the USA, not one female CEO has succeeded(General Dynamics is the lone exception), at least for any significant period of time….Actually, none have reached that lofty position in the car or other manufacturing industry where hundreds of thousand of people work 24/7 to produce high technology products in an incredibly fast moving and competitive industry.

Many engineers succeed at the pinnacle position in such companies – fewer women have the bare knuckle, hard scrabble experience to steer a company through the type of  problem that GM  now faces.   A new face may emerge soon to reorient GM’s efforts in a more transparent and experienced fashion than Mary Barra is currently providing.

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