WOMEN LEADERS: MITSUBISHI’S KIMBERLEY GARDINER ON CHANGING THE AUTO INDUSTRY THROUGH DIVERSITY

I recently had the opportunity to listen to automotive veteran Kimberley Gardiner, Vice President and CMO of Mitsubishi North America. From covering her humble beginnings to her innovative approach that challenges common practices in the automotive industry, Gardiner’s story is one that inspires deep thinking.

KIMBERLEY GARDINER’S BACKGROUND

Kimberley started at Toyota, on the marketing team, working on the launch of the first-ever Toyota Prius. Following the launch, she worked at Lexus and Kia, until she realized her goal of working for a company that highly valued their morals and customer’s needs.

THE POWER OF A MENTOR

Kimberley didn’t immediately see herself as a figure capable of bringing large, positive change to a company. It took years of learning from several key mentors. Tim Morrison, a manager at Toyota, taught her that to bring change, one must understand the current system in its entirety. From Kia COO Michael Sprague, Kimberley realized the importance of listening before speaking. In her current position at Mitsubishi, Kimberley says she always looks for people to mentor and appreciates those who ask. As for her role models today? Kimberley especially looks up to Deborah Wahl (CMO at Cadillac) who she worked with at Lexus.

WOMEN IN THE AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY

To Kimberley, the recent rise of women in the auto industry has nothing to do with gender, but rather talent. She believes women bring a fresh perspective to the table, which inspires people to view an issue from several different angles. When dealing with group decisions, Kimberley sees a room full of women as a collective making a decision, not the individual. Ego plays less of a role. She sees women as being more sensitive and inclusive. In a business setting, those characteristics are key. They help people understand a situation and select the right course of action to rectify it.

TAKEAWAYS

Apart from admiring Kimberely’s great accomplishments, her interview gave me many important things to think about. For one, I learned the importance of diversifying a group. Diversity brings fresh perspectives that are not as easily discoverable among a homogeneous set of people. Additionally, Kimberly described the importance of mentors. They not only help you plan your future, but they also allow you to reflect on previous experiences. Kimberely’s example of finding success in a typically male-dominated industry sets a precedent. She inspires future generations to disrupt conventionally held beliefs in the best ways possible.

I work to make the web a more beautiful, accessible, and functional place. I use dreams as a form of planning. And I play because it’s fun.

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