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Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

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December 10th, 2013
05:23 PM ET

Why the first female CEO at GM is a 'huge deal'

(CNN) - General Motors on Tuesday promoted insider Mary Barra to serve as the new chief executive officer, the first female head of a major U.S. automaker.

The move is "a huge deal," said Fortune Magazine's Leigh Gallagher.

"There are a number of women who run these top corporations. But running a car company, just the meaning there, that this is Detroit, this is the auto industry, and its place on the Fortune 500, this is very, very significant," said Gallagher.

Industry watchers do not expect any big changes from Barra.

"She really tells it like it is. She's known for kind of no b.s. She's very, very experienced. She has almost the exact kind of background you would want for someone taking the reins of this company," said Gallagher.

Barra started at GM as an intern, has an engineering background, ran a GM plant, and later human resources.

"When she ran human resources, one of the things she did was cut down the employees' dress code which was a 10-page part of a manager's document, and made it just one sentence: Dress appropriately," said Gallagher.

Barra's point was people running GM divisions and managing employees, do not need to be told what to wear.

"That's the kind of manager she is," said Gallagher.

Speaking of dressing appropriately, yoga wear retailer Lululemon also made news Tuesday, announcing founder and chairman of Chip Wilson would step down from his role next year. The news comes after a series of gaffes from Wilson, who last month, when asked about the company recalling yoga pants prone to transparency because of thin material, blamed women's bodies.

"Some women's bodies just don't actually work for it," Wilson told Bloomberg TV. "It's really about the rubbing through the thighs, how much pressure is there. I mean over a period of time, and how much they use it."

Wilson later apologized for those comments.

In 2009, Wilson wrote in a blog post, "Breast cancer also came into prominence in the 1990’s. I suggest this was due to the number of cigarette-smoking Power Women who were on the pill (initial concentrations of hormones in the pill were very high) and taking on the stress previously left to men in the working world."

"We have seen this before in some executives, especially founders and entrepreneurs tend to be – let's just say – quirky sometimes," said Gallagher.

"The right thing to do is move him out of the scenes and put in someone who can run this business," said Gallagher. "This company is big, and it's important, and it's nowhere near the size of the company when he founded it."

Wilson has been behind the scenes of Lululemon for a long time, the move just makes it official, says Gallagher.

"It's important. I think that Lululemon's customers and shareholders need to see this happen," said Gallagher.

When Wilson's controversial comments on women's bodies and thighs first surfaced, "I thought this guy really doesn't know who his consumers are," Gallagher said.

"This is why we need more women in CEO roles," said Gallagher. "There are some tactical behavioral issues between men and women that you see in the CEO position."

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