In an industry not exactly known for its diversity, an iconic American carmaker has appointed its first female chief financial officer (CFO). And she’s from Chennai, India.
General Motors (GM), the maker of Buick, Cadillac, and Chevrolet cars, said in announcement on June 13th that the 39-year-old Dhivya Suryadevara will take over as CFO in September. Suryadevara joined the company in 2005, and has held various positions over the years. Since July 2017, she’s been serving as its vice-president for corporate finance.
With Suryadevara’s appointment, GM joins a handful of companies, including Hershey Co and Signet Jewelers, that have women serving as both CEO and CFO. In 2014, Mary Barra became the first woman to make it to the top of a major automobile company as CEO of GM.
“Any time a woman is added to the C-Suite it’s something that should be celebrated,” Anna Beninger, senior director of research at Catalyst, a non-profit that tracks women in leaderships positions, told Bloomberg. “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.”
As the vice president of Corporate Finance, Suryadevara has been responsible for corporate financial planning, investor relations and special projects, and as the vice president of Finance and Treasurer, she helped achieve ratings upgrades from all three credit ratings agencies, completing $2B notes issuance to fund discretionary pension contributions and upsized and renewed GM’s $14.5B revolver.
As the CEO and Chief Investment Officer for GM Asset Management, Suryadevara was responsible for the management of business and investment activities of GM’s $85B pension operations. Suryadevara has also worked on other projects for the company, including Opel divestiture, Cruise acquisition, Lyft investment and SoftBank’s investment in GM Cruise. She joined GM in 2005.
The move shows how far Suryadevara, who holds an MBA from Harvard University, has come from her childhood in Chennai. Suryadevara received her bachelor’s and master’s degree in commerce from the University of Madras in Chennai, India.
She is a Chartered Financial Analyst and a Chartered Accountant. “Dhivya’s experience and leadership in several key roles throughout our financial operations positions her well to build on the strong business results we’ve delivered over the last several years,” Mary Barra, the chairman and CEO of GM, said in a statement.
Suryadevara will move into her new job in September. She replaces Chuck Stevens, 58, who plans to retire next year after more than 40 years with the carmaker. Stevens will remain with the company as an adviser until his retirement, it said.