By Kelli Findlay–Mary Barra was named the CEO of General Motors on Jan. 1, 2014.

This makes her the first woman to be CEO of any auto manufacturing company, according to the Washington Post. Barra, 51, previously was vice president of global product development and purchasing and will take over for previous CEO Dan Akerson on Jan. 15.

According to the Washington Post, Barra has a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and began her career with GM as a college co-op student working for the Pontiac brand. She then went to Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business on a GM scholarship, and since then has worked her way up through a series of engineering, manufacturing and senior staff jobs at the company.

In 2011, she was named a vice president for global product development, that put her in charge of the design and quality control for GM vehicles built around the world.

Last August, she was named executive vice president. This woman sets a standard for all students who are pursuing a degree in business or management.

Sue Culpepper, Director of UTC College of Business Success Center said “I must say I am pleased to see a “veteran” with a company such as GM rise to the top, and it further pleases me that in this day and time in the automotive industry, it happens to be a woman. I admire her approach to teambuilding and the fact that she is described as ‘a soft-spoken, math-loving nerd with a passion for problem-solving.’”

Culpepper weighed in on her thoughts on females in the working world. Culpepper said, “Unfortunately with the focus on the glass ceiling, women in the boardroom, etc, the working class has somewhat been left out of much of the debate.

Over time, there has been a shift of women moving from what was known as the traditional female working class roles to the skilled trades. More females are learning trades and have pursued the more traditional trade skills that were once reserved for men.

The average wage of a tradesperson is double that of retail job and women are pursuing these careers in many cases to support their families. With the demand for skilled labor increasing, it is an opportunity for both genders. The other demographic to watch are the female entrepreneurs, which is a growing sector. Women are natural networkers and collaborators, which prepares them well for entrepreneurship.”

UTC student from Chattanooga, Andi Jungels a Communication Major said, “It is so exciting to not just observe a successful woman but someone who is at the top of such a famous international brand, I think it is extrememely beneficial to females all over the world, to see someone rise that high.”

Jungels said, “It is awesome and awe-inspiring, and I hope men are happy for her and don’t question how she got there, and I hope it makes them look at women in a more equal and respectful way. I hope it inspires respect.”

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