Mayra González is President and Managing Director of Nissan Mexicana (NMEX). She is the first female executive to manage a Nissan operation worldwide, and the youngest person to assume this position in the company’s history.
When I was a young girl, my parents taught me that I could do anything I put my mind to, I just had to make sure I was the best at it. This is how I became the girl who always won more candy at kids’ parties, the girl who always answered questions first in class, and the first one to turn in tests. I feel truly fortunate to have grown up in a home that pushed me beyond the limits and social expectations for women, even in a society like Mexico’s -- known for its deeply rooted male chauvinism or machismo -- where women have few opportunities to exercise their rights.
Even though Mexico has experienced positive changes over the last few years in terms of women in the workplace, there is still a huge opportunity to create a more diverse society, particularly as related to equal opportunity in education, work, and life in general.
With respect to my personal story, I don’t think it has been only a matter of luck. I firmly believe that dreams don’t come true unless you make them a reality. I always knew that I would lead a company someday; I just didn’t know exactly when it would happen. As a woman, you must work hard and stay focused to make your dreams come true, as we consistently face gender barriers.
I remember that my venture into the automotive industry was simply the result of chance. At that time, I was looking for a part time job so that I could buy a car to commute between home and college. That was what led me to apply for a job at a car dealership, which then led me to the sales floor, where I experienced the most amazing revelation of my life: I realized that gasoline runs through my veins.
Car sales are unique and the experience transformed my life, because in Mexico, unlike other countries, you celebrate the purchase of a new car as the realization of a dream.
I was deeply grateful to be part of this important celebration in the lives of so many people, and was actually invited on several occasions to be part of the family photo customers took when they came to pick up their new cars.
That is when I knew that I was on the right path to make my dreams come true. I applied for a job at the company’s financial branch, Renault Financial Services, where I started my professional carrier. Since then, I’ve spent more than 15 years working for companies within the Renault-Nissan Alliance and, while it has been an intense and challenging experience, it has also been interesting, to say the least.
The obstacles and barriers I have overcome are not the focus of my story, but rather how I overcame them and won a seat on the company’s board of directors. I believe that this is the true lesson that can be learnt from looking for opportunities and taking risks.
In my first years as a sales representative, I remember spending hours driving to remote cities in Northern Mexico to visit the brand’s dealership owners. I spent even more time sitting outside their offices, waiting for them to receive me, since they could not fathom, at the time, that a woman was there to tell them how to manage their business.
I soon understood that I had to offer these men something they didn’t have. So, I used information as my primary tool to give them a new perspective. I remember studying the data for each city, including the local market’s behavior and even its social situation so I could give them new information they did not know they needed. After a couple of tries, they finally opened their office doors to me, and I started making a name for myself in the automotive industry, which is effectively dominated by men but is not theirs alone, as my experience shows.
After several years working at the company, José Muñoz, Nissan Mexicana’s President at the time, asked me if I wanted to be the first woman to sit on the board of directors. I immediately said yes without hesitation and without having the slightest idea about what the position entailed. I remember asking myself at that critical moment in my life if I should take the elevator to see where it takes me, or stay on the same floor. I took the elevator.
I believe that women must acknowledge that we can do anything we want. We are just as capable as men but, sadly, many women still don’t realize this, be it for lack of self-confidence or due to gender barriers. Let me assure you that if I succeeded, anyone can succeed as well.
That’s how I came to hold my current position as President and CEO of Nissan Mexicana. I am proud to say that I finally broke the glass ceiling by becoming the first woman at Nissan to lead a country’s operations in more than 83 years. It was a big achievement and, yes, I think I can go even further.
Many people have asked me if I have finally seen my life dream come true, to which I answer no. I keep living my dream, every day of my life. The only difference is that now I feel empowered to make changes to help other women have the opportunities I did not have at the start of my carrier. I have always said that if my life story inspires just one girl, one female college student, or one woman in an executive position, I will have accomplished one of my life goals, and this is something I see in my daughter’s eyes every day. I want her to be whoever she wants to be. I want her to help other women and to be inspired by her life choices; because women need to support and empower each other in our collective pursuit of a better life and future.
Meet Mayra Gonzalez at the 2016 Women’s Forum Global Meeting in Deauville, France – Thursday 01 Dec. at 16:50