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Meet Alicia Boler Davis, one of our 2018 Role Models. Ms. Boler Davis is the Executive Vice President of Global Manufacturing at General Motors (GM) and has been with the company since 1994. Throughout her time at GM, she has held many other roles and was the first African-American woman to be a plant manager at a GM vehicle manufacturing plant. Ms. Boler Davis has a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from Northwestern University, a master’s degree in engineering science from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and an MBA from Indiana University. She is being recognized for her outstanding professional accomplishments and demonstrated leadership throughout her career at this year’s Role Model Dinner.
Here are some clips from her recent conversation with AFG.
Alternatives For Girls (AFG): For many of the women we serve, AFG provides a support system to help them make positive choices. Was there anyone in your life or career who has helped guide you in making important decisions?
Alicia Boler Davis: Yes, I’ve been fortunate. I had my parents who were very instrumental to me as I was growing up. My older sister, who was a straight-A student, everyone loved her, set the bar really high for me because I wanted to be like her. I wanted to get good grades, that was important to me. Bill Boggs was a mentor to me. He was a plant manager and I had a goal to become a plant manager. He taught me a lot and helped me along the way; making career choices, how to handle certain decisions that came up and helped me work through assignments. He pushed me to [become a plant manager]. He was instrumental to me, not only as a mentor but as someone who supported me in my career.
AFG: Can you tell us about some of the challenges you’ve faced throughout your career?
Boler Davis: I’d say, even starting from when I decided to study engineering in college, it was a challenging curriculum, there weren’t a lot of females and African Americans in my classes. I had to build my confidence to believe I had what it takes to succeed. I also had to learn to build relationships with people that seemed different on the surface, although we really wanted the same things. I learned to work with diversity. Having the belief and tenacity to not give up, even when things are tough, which is something I’ve had through my childhood, college, and my career. I choose to take jobs that are challenging because I think I’m at my best when I’m at challenged. Working at GM and choosing to work in manufacturing, those are challenges I’ve turned into opportunities.
AFG: Who are your role models?
Boler Davis: Our CEO Mary Barra, she has been a role model to me, inside of the company. We had a lady who retired from GM, Barbara Mahone. She was an African American executive in the company and was somebody that I could look up to and learn from.
AFG: Which of your accomplishments are you the proudest of?
Boler Davis: Being a mother, that’s the thing that I’m most proud of. And being able to, with my husband, raise my two sons to be responsible young men, to follow their passion, to help others, and to just be positive people. I’m very proud of my sons.
I’m proud of my career, but I don’t know if I could pick just one thing. I’m very proud to, not only have a bachelor’s degree but to have achieved two masters’ degrees while working, in engineering and business. I’m proud that I’ve been able to do that while working and also use my education to make an impact at GM. And the positive impact I’ve been able to make with the women at GM, providing resources and leadership support so we can continue to support the women at GM.
AFG: What advice would you give to the young women that AFG serves?
Boler Davis: I would tell them to look beyond their circumstances and to dream big. To believe in themselves and that even when things get tough it doesn’t mean that they can’t [do something] it just means that they have to find a way to overcome. They may have setbacks but the setbacks don’t have to stop them from achieving their goals or becoming the person they want to become. They should continue to pursue that with passion. It’s their life, they shouldn’t let anyone tell them that they can’t believe in themselves or believe in their goals.
AFG: Why do you believe that it is important to empower girls and young women?
Boler Davis: Girls are a big part of our world. They have skills and capabilities that can make our world a better place. If we empower girls it can help everyone because they can make a difference in a big way. Breaking down the roadblocks that are in the way of girls achieving their potential is all of our jobs. Here and around the world, we have to make sure that girls are able to contribute.