Aligned with the mission of US Black Engineer, one of the oldest diversity magazines for scientific and technical careers, and USBE’s BEYA STEM Conference that promotes achievement and career opportunities in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields, Ms. Alicia Boler-Davis, executive vice president of General Motors Global Quality and U.S. Customer Experience will receive the Black Engineer of the Year Award on Feb. 10, in Washington, DC.
Boler-Davis who has been immensely active in providing inspiration and motivation for middle school girls who like math and science, mentoring at General Motors, and speaking to college students on leadership, and driving change has been recognized by numerous organizations Davis for her community service.
“The Black community hasn’t always had equal access to STEM career paths, opportunities, and role models. You can’t be what you don’t see. However, historically black colleges and universities have done a lot to make it possible for all students to graduate and go on to promising STEM careers. In addition to the efforts of these educational institutions, which graduate more than 30 percent of America’s black engineers, organizations like Career Communications Group use the power of their media and live events to expose young girls to leading women in science, technology, engineering, and math disciplines and careers. Women who look like them, come from similar communities and share their experiences,” explained Dr. Tyrone Taborn, chairman and CEO of Career Communications Group. CCG is a minority-owned media services company, which connects top technology talent to employers that have the potential to fulfill their career goals.
“Alicia Boler Davis joins an outstanding group of pioneers who have received the Black Engineer of the Year Award over the last 30 years. The female winners … are deeply involved in developing the talent pipeline of American innovators of the future and as a BEYA winner, Alicia will serve as a global ambassador for STEM and be an [integral part] part of preparing young Americans for the digital age,” added Taborn.
The Michigan Chronicle in an exclusive interview with Boler-Davis at her offices in Warren, talked with Boler-Davis following that day’s historic announcement when GM president Dan Ackerman appointed Alicia Boler to senior vice president of Global Quality and Global Customer. The appointment made Boler-Davis only the second African American woman in automotive history to report directly to the office of the president, and expands her customer experience role from a U.S. position to one of oversight for GM operations worldwide.
Boler-Davis, who early on in her career worked as plant manager at Orion Assembly and Pontiac Stamping plants was the first African American woman plant manager at a GM vehicle manufacturing plant Davis. Since her C-Suite appointment she is only the second African American woman in automotive history reporting directly to an auto company president. Boler Davis reports directly to GM president and Chairman Mary Barra.
Confident, commanding and composed, the relatively petite and remarkably poised automotive executive made it clear why she is GM’s highest ranking African American female executive.
On the challenges of being a woman in a man’s world …
GM supports diversity and you can see that with the number of senior leaders that we have on our executive operating committee and the number of women we have on our board. It’s a company that supports diversity and supports it through talk in action. But you still have a number of people who have a more traditional view and view the auto industry as male dominated and have an opinion around what women can and cannot do. They may not just say it, so you won’t get anyone who says ‘you should not be here,’ but you see the initial surprise. There may be some condescending attitudes, but when you are capable you can change their minds. We have women every day who push through (the boundaries) and I am glad to be one of those women.
On the challenges of being a black woman in a leadership role …
We know there are still people that have attitudes about Blacks and other minorities that are not always positive. So I believe that it adds another level of challenge, the same way I approach being a female in this position, is the same way I approach being a I Black female in this position. I don’t focus on the negative, I focus on me and what I am supposed to do every day and how can I do my job better, and guess that the rest will take care of itself. If there are issues I confront them. If you don’t like me that’s one thing, but you still have to do your job, whether you like me or not.
On the most important attributes for women in a leadership role …
You have to have the skills and the background and the capability. That’s just number one and you have to believe that you can do it. And then you have to get the results. And I have also learned over the years that it is about your team and you have to inspire your team to follow and to lead. It’s not about you. You have to be okay with taking risks. Being capable and able doesn’t mean you have to be the expert in the room.
When Boler Davis accepts the torch as the thirty-second Black Engineer of the Year in the nation’s capital February 2018, she will be the sixth woman to receive this award from the Council of Engineering Deans of the nation’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities, which graduate more than 33 percent of all black engineers in the United States.
As the 2018 Black Engineer of the Year nominee, Boler-Davis is recognized as a global ambassador of goodwill for underrepresented minorities in science and technology, and for women in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).