Five Statements from Women at General Motors on Our Industry

The automotive industry is undergoing rapid transformation, fueled by innovation in technology and the changing face of its workforce. Women are playing a key role in this evolution. This is part four of our Women in Stamping Series, celebrating equality and opportunity.

See Part 1 | See Part 2 | See Part 3 | See Part 4

Gender equality isn’t just about fairness—it also benefits companies. A Boston Consulting Group study of more than 1,700 companies found that greater gender equality on the board led to significantly better financial performance. Women tend to leverage innovative technologies and solutions while bringing fresh ideas and perspectives to the table.

To conclude this series, women are a driving force in the automotive industry, fostering a more diverse and innovative workplace. Achieving true equality requires a collaborative effort from companies and educational institutions. Together, we can build a more inclusive automotive industry for the future.

Statement from Bárbara Faria Molina, Jr. Engineering Analyst at General Motors

My name is Bárbara Faria Molina. I’m 23 years old and a recent graduate in Automotive Mechanical Engineering from the FEI University Center. I’ve always had a connection with the automotive sector through my father’s involvement in the industry, and a family-wide passion for cars. This background, coupled with a desire for challenges, inspired me to choose a profession in the industry.

Joining General Motors in February 2021 as an intern in tool development engineering, I was tasked with stamping simulation among other duties. I could not have imagined the scale of the challenge ahead or how overwhelmingly positive the experience would be.

During my two years at GM, being a woman has not presented any professional obstacles. The work environment is exceptionally comfortable and welcoming. I attribute this positive atmosphere to GM’s continuous promotion of diversity among its employees. With the ambition to be the world’s most inclusive company, GM has initiated numerous actions and campaigns to foster an inclusive culture and takes a zero-tolerance stance towards any prejudice or harassment in the workplace.

Today, in the professional realm, the biggest challenge for women like me is to dismantle ingrained paradigms. The automotive industry, often perceived by our families and educators as a male-dominated field, creates a guarded and somewhat apprehensive mindset among women about potential judgment, harassment, or prejudice. This can instill fear of making mistakes.

I am of the firm belief that achieving gender parity in the automotive industry will be a direct consequence of broader societal efforts towards eradicating prejudice. To further this cause, we women must showcase our skills and expertise, proving our commitment and ability to drive change, regardless of gender.

 Statement from Vanessa Rodrigues, Toolmaker at General Motors

The need to be accepted and meet the standards imposed by society is a reality for many women in various fields. A significant challenge lies in transforming environments that were traditionally ‘male’, such as implementing basic facilities like women’s restrooms, which, until recently, were absent in our Tool Shop. In my toolmaking course, I was the only woman present, indicating that change also needs to begin in the classroom and in the promotion of professional courses for women, paving the way for breaking down professional paradigms. I believe that organizations that embrace plurality and diversity, like GM, become catalysts for innovation. They foster a balanced environment and invariably enhance performance, benefiting everyone involved.

Statement from Jaqueline Paiva de Lima Bernardes, Buyer at General Motors

When girls receive proper guidance, love, and nurturing from those around them, they can get where they want to go! I am an example of what is possible when girls have a strong foundation from childhood. My name is Jaqueline Paiva de Lima Bernardes, 39, a graduate in Business Administration from ESAN/FEI, with a postgraduate degree in Foreign Trade from FEI, an Executive MBA in Strategic and Economic Business Management from FGV, and additional training in Lean Manufacturing, Green Belt/Six Sigma, among others.

My journey in the automotive sector began in the 2000s, and it was not easy! I started out at Karmann-Ghia do Brasil, where I spent almost a decade in PCP, Engineering, and Logistics. I then moved on to Ford, working in Purchasing for ten years. After a stint in the oil and gas industry’s Supply Chain, I returned to the automotive sector as a systemist. Currently, I am with GM do Brasil in Purchasing, focusing on strategic cost reduction and lean initiatives.

Helping to transform an almost entirely male-dominated environment, where any woman was often perceived as just the department secretary, was a task that demanded patience, study, resilience, and a proactive attitude. Over my 23-year career in the automotive sector, I have continually strived to learn, get to know people, and carve out my own space. The progress I see today, with women holding leadership roles and heading many organizations, makes all the effort worthwhile.

I feel honored to be part of a movement that is still fighting for its place, demonstrating competence, knowledge, and passion in everything we do. I believe that the biggest challenge we face as women in this industry is the constant questioning from ourselves and others—asking if we really belong here, if we’re doing it right, if this is what we really want, if…., if…., if…..

To all women out there, like me, who have worked hard to reach this point: Yes, you are exactly where you should be! Keep pursuing your goals; with dedication and hard work, you can achieve anything you set your mind to.

Statement from Ana Cagnotto, Toolmaker’s Assistant at General Motors

The challenges of being a woman are widely recognized, but as a female metalworker in Tooling, where women’s acceptance is still relatively new, these challenges are even more pronounced. My journey in toolmaking began at sixteen when I took a course at SENAI and interned at another company before joining GM.

During my internship, being the first woman in the Toolroom brought enormous challenges. The most painful was not being recognized as capable of doing my job. Colleagues seeking assistance would walk straight past me looking for the nearest man, often not even offering a “good morning.” If they did ask for my help, I could proceed with my superior’s approval, which was often met with surprised looks on the faces of all the men involved.

After this two-year internship, the struggle to find employment presented another hurdle. Despite applying to countless vacancies, I was frequently told that toolmaking wasn’t a woman’s job, being traditionally male-dominated. While my male classmates were getting hired or called for interviews, I seldom received responses, and only GM invited me for an interview.

In this field, we women constantly have to prove our abilities and encourage more women to persevere. Although the journey isn’t easy, by supporting one another, we can pave a prosperous and peaceful path for future generations of toolmakers.

Statement from Raphaela Gallego, Toolmaker’s Assistant at General Motors

Fig. 1: General Motors team

Fig. 2: General Motors team

As a woman in the toolmaking sector, I can attest that we face challenges and gender prejudices that may initially seem like insurmountable barriers. Nevertheless, we have a fundamental role to play in this technical and innovative field. These challenges do not hinder our progress or prevent us from achieving excellence. I believe our role in Toolmaking transcends mere barrier-breaking. We bring unique perspectives, critical thinking, and a collaborative spirit to address industry challenges.

Diversity in thought and talent is essential for innovation, and women have a lot to contribute in the development and enhancement of tools and processes. To any woman interested in this technical and challenging field, you are wholeheartedly welcome! Here, you’ll find a supportive, united team ready to encourage you to excel beyond your imagination. Together, we’ll shape the future of toolmaking and prove that there are no limits to female talent and ability.

In this sector, we have the opportunity to inspire the next generations of women. The path might be challenging, but with determination, knowledge, and passion, we can empower women to achieve remarkable feats. Let the toolmaking sector continue to embrace diversity, for it is the cornerstone of innovation and progress.