On September 1, Dhivya Suryadevara will take over as General Motors’ very first female Chief Financial Officer in the company’s 110-year history. She will supersede Chuck Stevens whom has been with the company since 1978 and has held the current CFO position since 2010. Not only will she hold a position never before seen by a woman there, but she follows CEO Mary Barra onto a short list of dual female CEO/CFO’s within the corporate world (the other being the Hershey company).
A Woman of International and Domestic Grit
Dhivya Suryadevara is not lacking in her experience with GM. Arriving at the North American Fortune 500 company in 2005, she was soon recognized as Forbes top 40 under 40 in 2015—a major feat in itself.1
She hails from Chennai, India and has had to exercise courageous grit on the path to her current position. Losing her father at a young age, her then-single mother’s high educational expectations has inspired her character and reminds her of the value of hard work.
Starting out on her educational journey, she attended the University of Madrid. There, she obtained her bachelor’s and master’s degree in commerce. At the age of 22, she boarded a plane to Massachusetts to begin the process of acquiring an MBA from Harvard University. She admits that she experienced culture shock (being so far away from home) and felt the financial pressures of exhausted student loans.2
For Dhivya, persistence paid off. She broke the mold of gender and corporate stereotypes by proving that anything can be accomplished by hard work no matter where you find yourself in life.
Not Your Average CEO
Mary Barra was literally born into the automobile industry. Her father was a die maker for General Motors for 39 years. In an interview with Fortune, she claims that she didn’t know what she wanted to do when she grew up. She just knew she liked math.3
When she was 18, she entered into a program that would fast-track her to becoming a rank-and-file engineer with the company. While in the classroom there, she learned she liked to make things. Mary went on to obtain a Bachelor of Science degree along with an MBA from Stanford Graduate School of Business in 1990. Since then she has worn many hats under one corporate roof.
In January 2014, she took the reins as the first woman CEO of a major automaker. Currently, she is the only woman leading a car company anywhere in the world.
At 57, she could easily boast of her accomplishments, but instead, she chooses to recall her humble beginnings as an intern and gracefully pushes for more women to be in leadership positions at General Motors. She not only encourages women within her role, but she understands the importance of all business leaders coming together to provide input.
Dhivya Suryadevara and Mary Barra may not have dreamed of becoming history makers when they were young. Instead, they applied the learned lessons of hard work and integrity to their lives.
Now, little girls and women everywhere can look at their own path with even more confidence—knowing that a road has been paved. Because of another’s grit, they can gracefully press forward, taking positions that may not have been there for them before.
Don’t miss this podcast episode from This Grit and Grace Life: 5 Things a Woman Must Do for Success in Life – 040!
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Photo from GM’s Twitter account.