The automaker’s shareholders elected Jane Mendillo, the chief executive officer of the company that manages Harvard University’s endowment, to its board of directors this June, splitting its 12-member board evenly between men and women.
“We simply believe in putting the best people available on our BoD, for the needs of the company and BoD composition,” a GM spokesperson told Motto in an email. “This wasn’t a ‘managed’ outcome to the 50-50 split as much as it was a thorough vetting of candidates.”
It’s a milestone for the auto industry, which has a well-documented problem with elevating women to leadership positions. The auto industry, according to a Jan. 2016 Government Accountability Office report, ranks as one of the bottom five industries when it comes to representation of women on boards, averaging about 11%.
But GM has made public strides to promote women within its ranks in recent years, naming Mary Barra its first female CEO (and the first CEO of a major automaker) in 2014 and elevating women into other management roles.
GM isn’t the first company to have a board with an even gender split, though it’s arguably one of the biggest names to do so. Two other S&P 500 companies — student loan corporation Navient and utility company American Water Works Company — have more women than men on their boards. Only two other S&P 500 companies also have a 50/50 split on their boards: broadcast company Tegna and the parent company for fashion brand Michael Kors, according to data released last week by Equilar.
But these success stories are still the minority: women only hold 16% of S&P 500 board seats, according to that 2016 Government Accountability Office report, and 24 companies on the Fortune 500 still don’t have a single female board members in 2016.