Indian-American, Dhivya Suryadevara has successfully entered the predominantly male bastion of the auto industry by being appointed as the Chief Financial Officer of American automaker, General Motors (GM).
Suryadevara who has been with GM since 2005, has been responsible for corporate financial planning, investor relations and special projects. She played an integral role in the divestiture of its European arm, Opel and the acquisition of the self-driving vehicle startup, Cruise. Recently, she also helped to secure a $2.25 billion investment in GM Cruise by Japanese tech giant SoftBank Group Corp.
She has Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Commerce from the University of Madras, Chennai and an MBA from Harvard University. Before joining GM, she worked at UBS and PricewaterhouseCoopers.
Suryadevara has quickly climbed GM’s ladder since she began working there 14 years ago, and her appointment as CFO is significant: She is the first female CFO in the automaker’s 110-year history and makes GM one of only two Fortune 500 companies that have both a female CEO and CFO. Hershey, led by CEO Michele Buck and CFO Patricia Little, is the other company holding that distinction.
GM CEO Mary Barra, who has made significant strides to increase female leadership in the company, says Suryadevara is ready.
“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,” Barra said.
Although Suryadevara never imagined going into the automotive industry, she told Real Simple that she’s always enjoyed anything “challenging and complicated.”
That was the theme of her upbringing in Chennai, India. After her father passed away when Suryadevara was young, all parenting duties fell onto her mother.
“My mom had to raise three children on her own, which is difficult to do anywhere, let alone in India,” she said. “She wanted to make sure there were no corners cut when it came to our education and to prove that we could have the same resources as a two-parent household.”
Her mother’s high expectations stayed with Suryadevara as she completed her bachelor’s and master’s degree in commerce at the University of Madras. When she was 22, Suryadevara traveled to the U.S. for the first time to attend Harvard Business School, where she got an MBA.