Suryadevara makes GM the first automaker with female CEO-CFO pair

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GM names Dhivya Suryadevara CFO to replace retiring Chuck Stevens

UPDATED: 6/13/18 4:07 pm ET - adds details

DETROIT -- The appointment of Dhivya Suryadevara as General Motors CFO will make GM the only automaker with a female CEO and CFO -- and one of two Fortune 500 companies with women in both posts.

Suryadevara, 39, a Harvard Business School graduate, will succeed Chuck Stevens as GM CFO on Sept. 1, GM said Wednesday. Suryadevara has been GM"s vice president of corporate finance since July.

She will report to CEO Mary Barra, 56, head of the automaker since 2014. They will be one of just a few female CEO-CFO pairs in history. Barra and Suryadevara are the first women in their respective positions at the automaker.

"General Motors has a legacy of firsts when it comes to minorities and women," the company said in a separate statement on Wednesday. "We’re proud of it, and it is the foundation on which we’ll keep building. We still have more work to do, and we are determined to do it, the right way, for the long term. This mission has no finish line."

Suryadevara, a native of India, joined GM in 2005 and has been a part of many of the company"s crucial business decisions, including its sale of Opel to PSA Group last year, GM"s acquisition of Cruise Automation, GM"s $500 million investment in ride-hailing company Lyft and a $2.25 billion investment in Cruise last month.

Inforum CEO Terry Barclay told Automotive News the announcement is another indication of GM"s commitment to diversity. Inforum, formerly known as the Women"s Economic Club, is a Detroit organization that promotes women-in-business initiatives.

"GM is proving to the auto industry that winning the war for top talent means not allowing half that talent -- the female half -- to sit on the sidelines," Barclay said. "They are reaping the benefit of a sustained and thoughtful commitment to inclusivity as a core talent management value."

Mary Barra is the only female CEO of a major automaker. Photo credit: GM


According to the 2018 Fortune 500, of the 24 companies on the 500 list with female CEOs, the only other female CEO-CFO pair is Hershey Co."s CEO Michele Buck and CFO Patricia Little, at No. 379. General Motors is ranked No. 10.

Ranking lower than 500 with women in both positions are:

  • Williams Sonoma Inc."s CEO Laura Alber and CFO Julie Whalen at No. 508 on the list
  • Commercial Metals Co."s CEO Barbara Smith and CFO Mary Lindsey at 525
  • American Water Works Inc."s CEO Susan Story and CFO Linda Sullivan at 690
  • Cracker Barrel Old Country Store Inc."s CEO Sandra Cochran and CFO Jill Golder at 742
  • Penn Mutual Life Insurance Co."s CEO Eileen McDonnell and CFO Susan Deakins at 761

Suryadevara was named an Automotive News Rising Star in 2016 and a Crain"s Detroit Business "40 Under 40" honoree last year.

Other moves

Barra has promoted women to some key positions in recent years. Two years ago, she named Alicia Boler Davis executive vice president of global manufacturing, and in March she appointed Kim Brycz as senior vice president of human resources.

Those three are the only women among GM’s 17 corporate officers. With Suryadevara replacing Stevens, the automaker’s ranks will get closer to mirroring the share of women in senior jobs among S&P 500 companies, which is 27 percent, according to Catalyst, a nonprofit that tracks women in leaderships positions. The automaker’s board is tied with several other companies as the most diverse among S&P 500 companies with half of its directors being women.

“Any time a woman is added to the C-suite it’s something that should be celebrated,” said Anna Beninger, Catalyst’s senior director of research. “Given that the rate of change for women into the C-suite and into the CEO level has been so slow, any time we see one, it is certainly progress. On the flip side, it is one. We have to keep in mind that doesn’t mean a trend.” 

When women do reach the C-suite, they are disproportionately appointed to roles that aren’t directly related to operations and therefore are less likely to lead to a future CEO opportunity, Beninger said.

“It’s going to be critical to get women into more C-suite level roles that are in the line -- positions that allow them to demonstrate the skills that are necessary to take on a CEO role eventually,” Beninger said.

Bloomberg contributed to this report.

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GM names Dhivya Suryadevara CFO to replace retiring Chuck Stevens