Detroit Free Press6:24 p.m. EDT September 25, 2013
General Motors CEO Dan Akerson said it's "inevitable" that a woman will eventually become the CEO of a major automaker — and it could be his own successor.
"The Detroit Three are all run by non-car guys," Akerson said at a conference about leadership diversity. "Some day there will be a Detroit Three (company) that's run by a car gal."
GM is the most likely of the three automakers to be the first to have a female CEO. Mary Barra, GM's senior vice president for global product development, is considered a strong candidate to succeed Akerson.
At Ford, CEO Alan Mulally is widely expected to hand the reins to Chief Operating Officer Mark Fields sometime after 2014. At Chrysler, CEO Sergio Marchionne has said he won't retire before 2015.
"I don't know when, but I think there are an unbelievable number of talented women in automotive, certainly at General Motors," Akerson told reporters after his talk. "It's inevitable."
The leader of the world's second largest automaker participated in a fireside-style conversation at an Inforum Center for Leadership luncheon at the Detroit Regional Chamber's Michigan Automotive Summit.
Before his speech, Inforum said a study showed that GM had the most women (four) on its board of any automaker.
In a rare glimpse into his personal views on corporate social responsibility, Akerson said he wants the best talent for GM, regardless of the person's personal background.
"I don't believe Western white men have all the answers," Akerson said.
Akerson said it's critical to have a diverse board and leadership team to get a wide cross-section of ideas and reach a broad customer base. He said it's also important to show that inclusion is a core value of the company — and that anyone can advance.
"They don't want a gift. They want a chance. They want an opportunity," he said. "I think a part of good leadership is to make sure people have an opportunity. No gifts, no guarantees, just a chance."