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"Navigating the Future of Automotive Leadership: Balancing Tradition and Innovation"

on June 13, 2024

At the Women Automotive Summit on the 4th June we had the privilege of welcoming over 400 attendees to our first US Summit. The Women Automotive Network is a global community of 39,000 from 108 countries. Our mission is to inspire, empower, and connect women and their allies in the automotive industry to create a more inclusive and diverse world.

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"Embracing the Future of Leadership: A Panel Discussion on Innovation, Diversity, and Talent in the Automotive Industry"

On the 5th June, the Women Automotive Network hosted a panel discussion looking at what new technologies and innovation are shaping hires, the role of diversity, equity and inclusion trends, and ultimately, how to attract and retain talent.


The Panel

  • Jennifer Brace, Chief Futurist, Ford Motor Company
  • Brandon Faurote, VP Advanced Design, Stellantis North America
  • Marian Maroki, Buyer, Exhaust Systems, General Motors
  • Stephanie May, Commercial Director, Women Automotive Network


Meet the Panelists

Jennifer Brace: Jen is the Chief Futurist at Ford Motor Company. Her role involves tracking trends, looking to the future, and helping teams prepare for an uncertain future by stress-testing their strategies against different future scenarios. With 20 years of experience at Ford, Jen has a rich background in engineering and marketing, and she spent five years in Silicon Valley at Ford's Palo Alto Lab.

Marian Maroki: Marian recently graduated from Wayne State University, dual-majoring in global supply chain and marketing management. Currently, she is part of General Motors' track rotational program, rotating into different positions every six months. Marian has interned at Magna, Tesla, and Plastic Omnium.

Brandon Faurote: Brandon attended the College for Creative Studies, an art and design school in Detroit. He has been with Stellantis for around 30 years and currently leads advanced design for the North American brands (Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, and RAM). His focus is on future trends and customer needs, particularly in the 10-year time frame.



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Discussion Highlights

Jennifer Brace on the Role of a Chief Futurist: Jen's role involves preparing Ford for future uncertainties by tracking trends and stress-testing strategies against various future scenarios. With a 20-year career at Ford, including five years in Silicon Valley, she has seen significant changes in the industry. Reflecting on her career, she noted that, as a woman in engineering, it was not uncommon to be the only female in the room. However, she is encouraged by the strides made towards empowering more women in the industry.

Marian Maroki on Her Career Journey: Marian shared her experiences from her time at Wayne State University to her current role at General Motors. She highlighted the value of her internships at companies like Tesla and Magna in shaping her career. Now, as an exhaust systems buyer at GM, she continues to grow and contribute to the automotive industry.

Brandon on Advanced Design at Stellantis: Brandon discussed his 30-year journey at Stellantis and his current role in advanced design. He focuses on understanding future trends and customer needs, especially over a 10-year horizon. His work involves bridging the gap between short-term production needs and long-term strategic goals.


Looking Ahead: Future Leadership in the Automotive Industry

The discussion then turned to the future of leadership in the automotive industry. Key points included:

Technological Innovation:

  • Artificial Intelligence (AI): Jennifer discussed how AI is transforming various aspects of the automotive industry, from design and manufacturing to customer service and sales. AI-driven analytics are helping companies predict market trends, optimize supply chains, and enhance vehicle safety features.
  • Electric Vehicles (EVs): Marian highlighted the rapid advancement and adoption of electric vehicles. She mentioned GM's commitment to an all-electric future and how it's driving innovation in battery technology and charging infrastructure.
  • Autonomous Driving: Brandon touched upon the ongoing developments in autonomous driving technology. He emphasized the importance of integrating advanced sensors, machine learning algorithms, and real-time data processing to make autonomous vehicles a reality.

"Developing autonomous driving technology requires integrating advanced sensors, machine learning algorithms, and real-time data processing. It's a complex but exciting challenge." 

    Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI):

    • Gender Diversity: Jennifer shared insights on the progress made in gender diversity within Ford and the broader industry. She noted the increase in female engineers and leaders and the impact this has on company culture and product innovation.

    "The increase in female engineers and leaders at Ford is encouraging. Diversity isn't just about numbers; it's about creating a culture where different perspectives are valued and integrated into our decision-making."

    • Inclusive Workplaces: Marian stressed the importance of creating inclusive workplaces that support diverse voices. She discussed initiatives at GM aimed at fostering an inclusive environment where everyone feels valued and heard.
    • Equity Programs: Brandon talked about Stellantis' efforts to implement equity programs that address systemic barriers to advancement for underrepresented groups. He highlighted mentorship programs, scholarships, and partnerships with educational institutions as key strategies.

    Talent Attraction and Retention:

    • Career Development: Jennifer emphasized the need for continuous learning and career development opportunities. She discussed Ford's initiatives to provide training programs, leadership development workshops, and cross-functional project experiences.
    • Work-Life Balance: Marian highlighted the growing demand for flexible work arrangements and the importance of work-life balance in attracting and retaining talent. She shared how GM is adapting to these needs by offering remote work options and flexible schedules.

    "Flexible work arrangements and work-life balance are essential for attracting and retaining talent. GM offers remote work options and flexible schedules to meet these needs."

    • Employee Engagement: Brandon discussed the significance of employee engagement in retention. He emphasized the need for transparent communication, recognition of achievements, and creating a sense of purpose and belonging within the organization.



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    In conclusion, the panel highlighted the dynamic nature of the automotive industry and the need for forward-thinking leadership. By embracing technological innovation, promoting diversity and inclusion, and focusing on talent development, the industry can navigate future challenges and seize emerging opportunities.

    Thank you to our esteemed panelists for sharing their insights and experiences. Together, we can drive the automotive industry towards a more innovative, inclusive, and successful future.


    Watch the full panel discussion here on our YouTube channel




    Women Automotive Network is the only global community dedicated to empowering women in the automotive industry.

    Our mission is to provide a platform for accelerating diversity discussion and inspiring change. Whilst offering unparalleled networking opportunities and support to achieve your best! Join our 40,000+ Network and get involved in our events, leadership interview series, mentorship program, job opportunities and much more.

    For all enquiries, get in touch here 


    Women Automotive Network Homepage: https://womenautomotivenetwork.com/

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