The Road Forward

More Conversations with Top Women in the Automotive Industry

by Carlo Bailo & Terry Barclay


The Road Forward provides insight and advice to all professionals on the impact of the COVID pandemic by sharing their thoughts of the road ahead and what changes they have experienced professionally, personally, and socially. In addition, the leaders discuss resilience, professional network maintenance and growth, personal growth, diversity and inclusion, and sustainability.

The promo material from SAE indicates that this book presents the views of 70 women in the automotive industry—which it does. But what it doesn’t indicate is that some of them—21 to be exact—we first met in the 2020-published The Road to the Top is Not on the Map; Conversations with Top Women of the Automotive Industry from the same authors, Carlo Bailo and Terry Barclay. Interesting is that with the first book they were described as its editors but with this one they are identified as the authors. Both are executives in their own right, Bailo is CEO of the Center for Automotive Research (CAR), and Terry Barclay, CEO of Inforum which describes itself as “a professional organization focused on creating strategic connections and accelerating careers for women throughout the Midwest.”

Each chapter, one to a person, opens with a head shot and a brief career/background summary. If you’ve noted that there are more than 70 images it’s because some of the ladies chose to also include a family group or other personal photo in addition to the head shot. 

Unlike The Road to the Top which had a list of questions from which the participants could pick to respond to, all of the women in this book are asked to discuss the same five topics. Those are: 1) Change Control, Resilience and Work/Life Balance; 2) Growing your Professional Network and Maintaining Mentor and Sponsor Relationships; 3) Personal Growth; 4) Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion; and 5) Sustainability. No surprise the changes wrought by coping with the prevailing conditions surrounding the pandemic are part of each person’s considered responses.

A random selection of some of the more provocative or profound or interesting observations: 

“I think those that will have the most success will be the ones that can merge the best of pre- and post-COVID-19 world.” Olabisi Boyle, VP Product Planning and Mobility Strategy, Hyundai Motor North America.

“We’ve learned our employees really value the flexibility that remote-based work provides.” “Flexibility means different things to each employee.” Kimberly J. Brycz, Senior Vice-president, Global Human Resources, GM.

“Whatever you do, be fully present—when you are talking to your team or family, looking at your phone is not being fully present.” Mamatha Chamarthi, Chief Information Officer, Stellantis-North America and Asia Pacific.

“We can look back, but we can’t go back . . . Organizations that offer their employees greater flexibility and craft an optimal model of in-person and virtual will attract and retain the best talent.” Lori Costew, Chief Diversity Officer and Director of People Strategy, Ford Motor Company and author of two well-selling novels for young people, Sherpa’s Adventures, books one and two. She is working on a third.

“In May of 2019, Bosch made a major commitment . . . pledging to make all Bosch locations globally carbon neutral by the end of 2020. I’m proud to say that despite the pandemic, we have achieved this promise and were the first major industrial enterprise to achieve the ambitious goal of carbon neutrality. Our 400 locations worldwide no longer leave a carbon footprint.” Karen Folger, Vice president, Actuators-Electrical Drives North America, Bosch and echoed in a later chapter by Maximiliane Straub, President, Global Business Services, Bosch.

An attitude expressed by many, but none in quite the same light-hearted way as Lottie Holland, Head of Diversity, Inclusion, and Engagement, Stellantis-North America. Due to the pandemic “. . . we’ve learned that anything is possible. We continue to meet company objectives while educating our children from our dining room tables, we worship in our living rooms, we exercise in our basements, and, oh yes, we even listen to music and dance in our bedrooms—thanks, Club Quarantine! It has definitely been an eye-opening experience. All of what I previously considered necessary, I have now come to discover was not; it was my faith, family, relationships, and community that were most important.” 

Information not widely disseminated but that is of vital interest to virtually everyone concerns the testing—and results of it—conducted under Deborah Mielewski, Technical Fellow of Sustainability, Ford Motor Company. “work[ing] with a surrogate COVID virus” and test[ing] on various automotive interior surfaces such as “steering wheel, seat fabric, carpet, door handles, and control buttons, each made from a different material . . . we were able to determine that heating the vehicles surfaces to 56 C (132 F) for fifteen minutes rendered the virus inactive.”

Each of the half-dozen women working for Toyota who have chapters in this book, no matter where or in what capacity each works, talked about a company philosophy called mendomi (meaning taking care of workers like they were family) and how it is implemented and lived throughout Toyota at all levels.

Words of wisdom: “I stopped the counterproductive extended focus on troubling issues that were outside our control, including regulatory delays and inconsistencies and the spread of the pandemic generally. . .instead encouraged the team to accept the situation at hand and focus all our efforts on how we could support our customers.” Sylvia Veitia, Ford Credit Executive Vice president for Operations and Customer Experience, Ford Motor Company.


To a respondent, all said things like (paraphrased) “learned so much coping with situations posed by the pandemic” that will “alter our lives—in work and personally—for the better going forward.” Another comment in common surrounded the gifts and benefits of curtailed travel. As one phrased it “I was on an airplane so much over the years that my personal hashtag was #onaplane!’ The benefits ranged from the global clearing of the air due to carbon reduction to the personal—more time with family, better connectivity with co-workers and associates internationally via Zoom or other like electronic connections making this book aptly titled if it indeed does help point us onto The Road Forward.

The Road Forward
More Conversations with Top Women in the Automotive Industry
by Carlo Bailo & Terry Barclay
SAE International, 2021
419 pages, 99 color images, softcover
List Price: $40
ISBN 13: 978 1 4686 0299 9 

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