Driven To Succeed

Meet General Motors’ First Female CFO

In case you’ve been living under a rock, this past year has unequivocally proven to be a major milestone for women reaching their career goals, crushing the glass ceiling, and striking gold in the working world. Our latest lady to make headlines with her business-savvy endowments has also successfully managed to exceed multicultural expectations and defy all odds.

    A true-blue GoGirl tale if there ever was one, this Indian-born brainy beauty was recently appointed CFO (Chief Financial Officer) for the iconic American carmaker, making her the very first female to do so in the company’s decade’s long history. General Motors proudly joins the ranks of Hershey Company and Signet Jewelers in appointing female CEOs and CFOs, as 39 year-old Dhivya Suryadevara took over the coveted role this past fall, after joining the company in 2005. Prior to her attention-grabbing promotion, she held various positions, including serving as the carmaker’s VP of Corporate Finance since 2017. An MBA recipient from Harvard University, Suryadevara hails from humble beginnings.

    After receiving her BA and Master’s in Commerce from the University of Madras in India, Suryadevara set her sights on the east coast’s elite Ivy League institution, where she essentially survived off student loans she knew she would eventually need to reconcile. Raised by her single mother after her father’s untimely death when she was very young, Suryadevara and her two sisters learned early on that education and hard work were non-negotiables for economic success and upward trajectory. Suryadevara recalls her financially and socially challenging childhood in Chennai: “My mom had to raise three children on her own, which is difficult to do anywhere, let alone in India. She wanted to make sure there were no corners cut when it came to our education...her high expectations made us want to do better, and we learned that nothing comes easy. You have to really work hard to get what you want.”

    Before joining GM as a senior financial analyst in 2005, Suryadevara worked at another financial icon, PricewaterhouseCoopers, and was an investment banker at UBS. After becoming one of GM’s youngest chief investment officers of Asset Management, she effectively managed $85 billion worth of assets for the carmaker’s prodigious pension plans.

    Although having worked on corporate financial planning and investor relations, Dhivya primarily focused her talents on developing autonomous vehicle technology for the car company, garnering an impressive investment of $2.25 billion from SoftBank Vision Fund, of which she played an integral part. According to GM’s June 2018 statement, Suryadevara also helped in the company’s sale of the Opel brand to French carmaker Groupe PSA, including an acquisition of autonomous driving tech start-up Cruise and a large stake investment in rideshare service Lyft.

    A chartered financial analyst, as well as a chartered accountant, Suryadevara was also named one of Fortune Magazine’s prestigious 40 Under 40 in 2015. “Anytime a woman is added to the C-Suite, it’s something that should be celebrated,” says Anna Beninger, senior director of research at non-profit Catalyst.

It’s pretty safe to say this GoGirl is going full-speed ahead.