Mila Marinkovic in conversation with Chris Barman: Diversity in engineering and the automotive sector

Mila Marinkovic, Principal at Miramar Global, interviews Chris Barman, a Global Innovation Leader and strategic growth executive in the engineering sector

Chris Barman found herself in the automotive industry partly due to chance, having initially chosen the path to become a paediatrician. She is now a successful mentor empowering women entering a sector which has previously had little female representation. Here, Mila Marinkovic asks Chris to share her experience and advice for other women looking to join the automotive sector.


Why did you decide to get into the automotive sector?

I attended Purdue University which has a very strong and supportive Women in Engineering Program through which I gained an internship with General Motors. I thoroughly enjoyed the complexities in problem solving and the continually evolving technologies that are driven by strong competition in automotive. Everyday can be unique and I really enjoyed this element of the industry.   


There are less women in senior roles in automotive than there are men. What advice would you give other women looking to join the automotive sector and what support is out there for women in the sector?

Often considered as an ‘old’ sector, this couldn’t be further from the truth. The industry is cutting edge and organisations are continually striving to achieve higher efficiencies and sustainability goals and it’s exciting to be a part of that journey.

I encourage women to take advantage of employee resource groups available within their company or look for industry groups for support. Throughout my career I have been active in both types of groups and have received tremendous support and growth.  An example of an impactful organization in Michigan is Inforum; they have many wonderful programs to support networking and professional development of women in the automotive industry.

In this industry you will come up against challenging discussions with your peers. In my experience, being data driven in discussions with an openness to listen and collaborate is a key factor to success. In addition to this you can’t take conflicting perspectives personally and you need to have conviction in your beliefs when you truly feel your approach is the best; then you need to work hard to educate others on why.


As a mentor within the industry what guidance do you offer females who would like to build a career in engineering?

Seek out mentors; both male and female as they can be tremendously beneficial in your development and career planning. Just remember though that you and no one else owns your career plan. Start by creating a career development plan which outlines your strategy for advancement. Share this plan with your mentor and seek their input to further develop the plan. Finally, be thoughtful and reflective of the feedback you receive and decide whether it’s the best option for you.  I have always been appreciative of mentor feedback, but I haven’t always put it into action if it wasn’t the right course of action for me.



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