2015 Powered by Women
With women-owned businesses in Michigan continuing to increase in number, we asked our readers to nominate female business leaders in the region who are driving profits, adding employees, and opening new opportunities.
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Vice President, GM North America
Manufacturing and Labor Relations
General Motors Co., Detroit
Employees (global): 220,000 | Revenue (2014): $155.9B
Born in Detroit and raised in the suburbs, Cathy Clegg enjoyed crafting things from early on: “Drafting, modeling cars, and cobbling up stuff on bikes with my friends,” she says. Those interests took her to a hands-on, application-based program in manufacturing and industrial technology at Eastern Michigan University, where she learned machining, welding, casting, metal forming, and molding.
Just before earning a degree in manufacturing technology, Clegg sent cover letters and resumes to Pontiac and Cadillac, largely because they were two of General Motors’ smaller car divisions. “I got a call from Cadillac and that’s where I started on Jan. 3, 1983, working as a process engineer in support of the manufacturing departments.”
At the time, Cadillac’s headquarters, engineering, and manufacturing facilities were located at Michigan and Clark in southwest Detroit. “We had machining, welding, polishing, plating, plastic injection molding, engines, and vehicle assembly there, plus a body plant on Fort Street, a stamping plant on Conner Avenue, and a new powertrain plant in Livonia.”
Along the way, Clegg progressed through increasingly difficult jobs in process and manufacturing engineering. “I was what we called a floor engineer, production support for manufacturing engineering, and worked in all the different areas in manufacturing engineering — plastics molding, machining, and engine build — and I supported the stamping plant, welding, and plating operations for some time.
I haven’t had many desk jobs.”
Clegg eventually moved up to plant manager at the Oshawa, Ontario, and Marion, Ind., metal centers, then GM’s Fort Wayne assembly plant. During that time, she earned an MBA from the University of Virginia and a Master of Arts in advanced leadership studies from Wesleyan University in Indiana.
In 2007, she was named manufacturing manager over all North American stamping and die operations. Two years later, she added several assembly and powertrain operations in the U.S. and Canada to her responsibilities. Promoted to vice president of labor relations, she successfully led the negotiations for the 2011 UAW-GM National Agreement. Following that, she was promoted to vice president of global manufacturing engineering. In June, she was appointed vice president of North America Manufacturing and Labor Relations.
Was she mentored along the way?
“Early in my career, it was primarily my dad (a former GM employee) giving me advice … and I have mentored a number of folks who have worked with me or for me in all different functions and stages of their careers. Honestly, I got mentored from up, down, and sideways, and I encourage others to do the same. I have had mentoring from UAW employees in our plant, from general managers, and from my peers. You build a network of colleagues as sounding boards for ideas to get feedback and perspective.”
Asked about encouraging others to follow in her footsteps, Clegg speaks to the larger issue of maintaining and enhancing the manufacturing and technology sectors, not only in Michigan, but across the country.
“I believe it is hugely important to maintain a manufacturing base in this country. I think manufacturing plays a huge role in driving innovation and finding creative solutions to problems. For leadership, I think it’s most important to drive widespread engagement and build an organization capable of solving problems in a collaborative way.”
To that end, she’s quick to offer advice to recent college graduates. “When I talk to young women, or any young people entering the business, I tell them this is a great industry in which to work. There’s a lot of breadth of opportunity to express your creativity. You can take all of the math and science you’ve learned, outstanding foundational items, and apply those to unique and challenging problems. From a leadership perspective, you have to lead from who you are. To lead people to achieve, you have to love what you’re doing and have a passion for it, and demonstrate that so others will feel comfortable pursuing their interests and bringing their best skills every day.” — Gary Witzenburg