December 15, 2013 – Mary Barra has been selected as the new chief executive of General Motors, marking a first for the auto industry. According to Jena Abernathy, senior partner of executive search firm Witt/Kieffer, the business community shouldn’t just focus on gender as a breakthrough with this news. What strikes Ms. Abernathy more is that Ms. Barra served as the leader of human resources for GM. Ms. Abernathy has observed first-hand over the past two decades that very capable, competent women end up in support positions in senior leadership such as HR. What Ms. Barra was able to do, says Ms. Abernathy, was move into other roles that allowed her to have more operational experience and exposure, which ultimately positioned her for the top job at GM.