Mary Teresa Barra

Chair and Chief Executive Officer of General Motors

Mary Barra is the first female Chief Executive Officer of Big Three automaker. She has been the Chair and CEO of General Motors since January 15, 2014, after she was appointed to succeed Daniel Akerson as CEO.

Early life

Barra was born on December 24, 1961 in Royal Oak, Michigan. Her parents were of Finnish descent. Her grandfather, Viktor Mäkelä, moved to the United States and married Maria Luoma, a Finnish immigrant from Teuva. Mäkelä and Luoma lived in Mountain Iron, Minnesota and had three children, including a son named Reino, who went by Ray. Ray was Barra’s father and he married a second-generation Finnish American named Eva Pyykkönen.


Barra began working at General Motors in 1980 as a co-op student when she was 18 years old. Her first job was checking fender panels and inspecting hoods, using this job to pay for her college tuition. In 1985, after graduating with her undergraduate degree, she worked as an acting superintendent, maintenance & tooling/senior plant engineer until 1988, when she attended Stanford. After graduating from Stanford, she returned to General Motors in 1990, where she steadily climbed the corporate ladder. For three years, she served as Senior Staff Engineer, operations engineering services – Chevrolet-Pontiac-Canada Group. From 1996 to 1999, she served as Executive Assistant to the chairman and vice-chairman. From 1999 to 2001, Barra worked as General Director, internal communications – corporate staffs. From 2001 to 2003, she served as Executive Director, competitive operations engineering – vehicle operations. From 2003 to 2004, she worked as Plant Manager, Detroit Hamtramck Assembly. From 2004 to 2008, she served as Executive Director – vehicle manufacturing engineering. From 2008 to 2009, she worked as Vice President – global manufacturing engineering. From 2009 to 2011, she worked as Vice President – global human resources. From 2011 to 2013, she served as Senior Vice president – global product development. In 2013, she worked as Executive Vice President – global product development. Barra became CEO in January 2014 and was promoted to chair and CEO in January 2016.

Net Worth

Barra has an estimated net worth of $194 million.


Under Barra, General Motors moved into driverless and electric-powered cars through corporate acquisitions, including acquiring Strobe, a startup in driverless vehicles. In 2017, General Motors began selling the Chevy Bolt EV, the first electric car priced under $40,000, with a range of 200 miles. That same year, she was the highest-paid Detroit Three executive, with a total compensation of $21.96 million. Also in 2017, she was elected to the board of directors of Disney, where she is the twelth person elected to the board and the fourth woman. She was a member of the General Dynamics Board of Directors and currently serves on the Board of the Detroit Economic Club and Detroit Country Day School. She is a member of the Stanford University Board of Trustees, the Stanford Graduate School of Business Advisory Council and the Duke University Board of Trustees. Forbes listed Barra as the 35th most powerful woman in 2013. The magazine bumped her up to the fourth most powerful in 2018. Fortune ranked Barra as the 2nd most powerful woman in 2014, and the most powerful woman in 2015. She kept Fortune’s No. 1 spot in 2017. In April 2014, Time named Barra one of the 100 most influential people in the world. In May 2014, she delivered the commencement address for the University of Michigan’s Ann Arbor campus and received an Honorary Degree. In 2018, she received an Honorary Doctorate from Duke University. Barra was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in February 2018. In September 2018, she was awarded the Yale Chief Executive Leadership Institute’s Legend in Leadership Award. Most recently, Barra was elected for the inaugural 2021 Forbes 50 over 50 and was again included that year in Time’s list of the 100 Most Influential People in the World.


Barra graduated from the General Motors Institute, now known as Kettering University, in 1985, with a Bachelor’s Degree in Electrical Engineering. There, she was inducted into the Engineering Honour Society Tau Beta Pi. Barra also received a Master's of Business Administration from the Stanford Graduate School of Business, while on a General Motors fellowship, in 1990.