“The biggest myth I would like to dispel is that certain jobs or certain industries are out of limits for women” With Penny Bauder & Sigal Cordeiro

I truly believe that anything is possible for women in any field. So, the biggest myth I would like to dispel is that certain jobs or certain industries are out of limits for women. There are women doing amazing things and leading in the tech, finance, automotive and space industries, all traditionally seen as male-dominant. […]

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I truly believe that anything is possible for women in any field. So, the biggest myth I would like to dispel is that certain jobs or certain industries are out of limits for women. There are women doing amazing things and leading in the tech, finance, automotive and space industries, all traditionally seen as male-dominant. There is truly nothing stopping us.

Sigal Cordeiro is Vice President, Urban Mobility and Maven Car Sharing at General Motors. Cordeiro’s mission is to define the future of personal mobility through an on-demand car sharing marketplace. Cordeiro joined General Motors in 2000 as a Chevrolet Brand Analyst in Detroit, MI. Since then she has held various roles including in Product Research, Brand Research and Global Product Marketing. Most recently, Cordeiro served as Executive Director leading product marketing for a new family of vehicles for key global markets where she led product definition, market positioning and drove significant improvements in program profitability.

Throughout her career, Cordeiro managed marketing partnerships at TAM Brazilian Airlines as well as serving as Director, Consumer Insights with NBC Universal. Cordeiro has a bachelor’s degree from Fundação Getúlio Vargas in Brazil, and an MBA from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.

Recently, Cordeiro was named as an honoree on the 2020 Create & Cultivate 100 List, in partnership with Chevrolet. The Create & Cultivate 100 List in partnership with Chevrolet honors 100 of the most successful and inspirational women disrupting industries and smashing glass ceilings. Create & Cultivate chose to partner with Chevrolet for a third year in a row due to the brand’s commitment to empowering female thought-leaders. Chevrolet and its parent company General Motors are proactive when it comes to the advancement of women in the workplace which is reflected in its many top-ranking female executives.

Thank you so much for joining us Sigal! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Growing up in Brazil I always had an admiration for cars. Buying a car is seen as a major accomplishment there and people have a true emotional connection with their cars. To this day, I remember the brand and color of my first car (a dark red Chevrolet Kadett)! As I started my career in marketing, I knew I wanted to work with products that had a significant impact in people’s lives and cars do that. They take you places and are a part of some of the moments that matter most to people, like your first date, your first job and visits to loved ones. This is what initially drove me to the automotive industry 20 years ago. Since then I’ve had an incredibly dynamic and interesting career at General Motors, working in several areas such as marketing, research and product development, all leading up to my current role as the Vice President of Urban Mobility.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began at your company?

One of the most interesting times in my career was working in product marketing on the development of future vehicles for growth markets. I was part of a truly global team where I was responsible for bringing the voice of the customer into the product development. I learned about finding the right balance between customer preferences in various countries, how to manage cultural differences in the workplace, and the importance of working collaboratively toward a common goal.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

At General Motors our vision is to create a world with zero crashes, zero emissions and zero congestion. It’s a really powerful vision because we’ve all felt the effects of a loved one involved in a car crash, what air pollution does to our health and missing out on life’s important moments due to being stuck in traffic. Our vision is going to be a journey (we won’t get there overnight), but we are implementing technologies and solutions along the way, like active safety features, that will allow us to one day reach an all-electric, autonomous future.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

I can’t share anything specific just yet, but one of the most exciting parts of my job is that I am helping to create innovative mobility solutions for the future that will improve the lives of customers and help General Motors achieve its vision of zero crashes, zero emissions and zero congestion.

Are you currently satisfied with the status quo regarding women in STEM? What specific changes do you think are needed to change the status quo?

I think too many STEM careers and industries are still seen as male-dominant, and for some women, this can be intimidating. While progress is being made, we need to tell more stories about women doing great things in STEM and how they’re reaching for the top in their industries. I am proud to work at General Motors, where we have a female CEO and female CFO inspiring women to believe in themselves and aim for the top. All women should pursue the career of their dreams! Anything is possible when you believe in yourself and work hard to achieve your goals.

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women in STEM that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts? What would you suggest to address this?

I think for some there is still a tendency to see women as less technical than men, which might limit their opportunities to be considered for certain positions or promotions. I also think that because there are fewer females in STEM, some women might feel like they don’t belong in a certain job or industry. Improving diversity and inclusion through education and recruiting practices can have a real impact at a company. I also encourage women to have professional allies (male and female) who can provide a support system.

What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a woman in STEM. Can you explain what you mean?

I truly believe that anything is possible for women in any field. So, the biggest myth I would like to dispel is that certain jobs or certain industries are out of limits for women. There are women doing amazing things and leading in the tech, finance, automotive and space industries, all traditionally seen as male-dominant. There is truly nothing stopping us.

What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience as a Woman in STEM “ and why.

Bring your whole self to work — be proud of who you are. Your background and experiences are what make you, you. Bringing your ideas and perspectives to the table will always add value to the conversation. Diversity of thought is critical for the success of any business.

Be open to tough assignments — they are the ones where you will learn and grow the most. Yes, it will be uncomfortable in the beginning, but that’s a completely natural part of the process, so don’t let it intimidate you.

It’s ok to fail — we are living in an extraordinarily fast paced world and technology is disrupting every industry. You have to be constantly testing, learning and pivoting in order to stay competitive and this will invariably include failing. Learn from it and move on.

Stay curious — in an ever-changing world you have to stay curious and have a growth mindset. Don’t become stagnant in your job and always look for opportunities to learn and grow.

Pay it forward –help other women grow. Be their mentor, their ally, their support system.

What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?

Understand what motivates each person on your team, as well as their strengths and weaknesses. This will help you give them assignments they will enjoy and strive in, and help create the right dynamic on the team by leveraging each person’s abilities.

What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?

I think women generally tend to be collaborative. This is a critical skill to have in large teams and organizations, where people have to work together and cross functionally to achieve their goals. Make sure you tap into this natural ability to bring cohesion and trust to your team and bring silos down so people can work well together. Working as one team can be very powerful.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

One of my former bosses had a significant impact on my career trajectory when he promoted me to a position I didn’t have technical knowledge in. He believed in me, my capabilities and my potential, and felt I could take on the role and do a great job. I am grateful he pushed me outside of my comfort zone since I grew so much from that experience and then went on take on other great roles.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

My role at General Motors is about bringing different mobility solutions to improve people’s lives, which is very rewarding. Outside of my specific role, I am an advocate for diversity and inclusion in our organization. I mentor several women and Latinos at General Motors and am president of the Latino employee resource group.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would love to start a movement of women helping women in the workplace. On many occasions I’ve seen women competing with each other, versus supporting each other. It would be extremely powerful to create a positive force by enabling each other.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude” — Maya Angelou

I believe in always keeping a positive attitude. There will always be challenges and things we don’t like or agree with. So, do something to change the situation or change how you see it. Choose to be positive!

We are very blessed that very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

It would be fascinating to meet Angela Duckworth since I am a fan of her work on grit. I would love to hear her insights on how perseverance and passion can come together to create a powerful force in both our personal and professional lives. Her book “Grit” is an incredible read!

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