Ford needs more women in top jobs, Mark Fields says – USA TODAY

Posted: Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Ford still has work to do to align the gender mix of its management team and workforce with its customer base, Chief Operating Officer Mark Fields said following a speech to 1,100 women at a Detroit event today sponsored by Inforum, a Michigan professional women’s group.

“I think there’s more work to do, absolutely,” he said. “But I think we are well on our way to getting there. We’re stepping up our recruiting efforts.”

The historic ascension of Mary Barra to General Motors CEO may help the industry recruit women.

“It’s a very positive sign in terms of, as women look to this industry, that they can have great careers and they can go right up to the top,” Fields told journalists.

Ford has made progress. Fields said when he joined Ford in 1989, there might have been one woman at the vice president level. Now there are four.

Of Ford’s 19 executive officers, there is one woman and the top five compensated positions are all held by men, according to an Inforum survey of Michigan companies released last fall. Of 15 directors on its board, two are women.

When you look below the vice president level, there are significantly more women at Ford today, Fields said. There also are more women managing plants.

Nancy Gioia, Ford director of global electrification, said that women overall are better educated than men today, but hold only 16% of the industry’s top jobs in the U.S. and 11% in Michigan.

Teenage girls are more likely to pursue engineering, math and sciences if they see women in top posts, Gioia said.

The Inforum study found that among 850 board seats at Michigan’s top public companies, women hold just 98 and 28 companies do not have one female executive, director or top-five compensated officer.

Women make up 47% of the U.S. labor force and have been pulling down a majority of bachelor’s and master’s degrees for at least 15 years, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Auto company results were in the middle of the pack. The sector averaged two female executives or board members per company.

GM has four female directors on a 14-member board. With Barra as CEO, 25% of GM corporate officers in North America are women.

“The change at GM has been amazing,” said purchasing chief Grace Lieblein. “The number of women in key positions all over is pretty remarkable.”

She credits GM for grooming women over the years and former CEO Dan Akerson for casting fresh eyes on corporate talent.

Women traditionally make car purchase decisions, and their buying power will only increase as the millennial generation, those born after 1980, ages, Fields said. “The millennials will be the first generation where women buyers outnumber male buyers.”


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