Oliverio: 'I see a lot more men advocating for women'

American Honda Motor Co. Inc. recently partnered with the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council Ohio River Valley and Great Lakes Women’s Business Council to host a Women’s Lunch & Learn.


After the event, Monica Oliverio, vice president of general administration at American Honda Motor, MBN USA sat down with her for an exclusive interview to discuss her background; the challenges and opportunities ahead for women in leadership roles in corporate America; and more.


Q: Can you tell us a bit about your background and your experience?

A: I’ve been with Honda for almost 30 years, so my background before Honda was pretty brief. While I was in college, I started in retail.


And while I had an interest in production and operations when I was in school studying for my degree, that retail experience surprisingly gave me my first glimpse of what I would say was purchasing and supply chain and a little bit of sales, too. The transferable skills that I learned include managing the inventory, supervising a team, setting sales goals/targets, like KPIs [key performance indicators]. It gave me enough competency and transferable skills that I could apply those in my career.


So, when I started with Honda in 1994, those were some of the capabilities that I was able to use. I started in supply chain and purchasing. Back then, we called it parts delivery but these days, we call it supply chain where we manage the parts and suppliers for the products that we are producing.


In my role as vice president of general administration encompasses both of what we call indirect procurement for our U.S. operations as well as the facilities management for our American Honda U.S. operations as well as some administrative and corporate services functions.


Q: As one of the top women in the automotive industry, what has been some of the key factors leading to your success in this space?

A: When we talk about the things that have contributed to my success, it’s really simple. When I reflect on my career and the various roles that I’ve had, I would say that collaboration, relationship-building and just really taking the time to invest in listening, understanding and gaining broader perspectives through all the different relationships I encountered. Because of the scope of purchasing, you interact with lots of different suppliers, each one with different capabilities and challenges. And then, within the company, you’re working with different stakeholders.


When I think about how each one of those experiences contributed to my growth, each interaction, collaboration – individually and collectively – broadened my perspective and contributed to my ability to mentor and develop individuals, make better decisions and invest in relationships, because that’s important. At the end of the day, it’s about people and team, and we’re all part of making that success happen. So, my success is not just my success. It’s the team’s success. It just happens to be that I’m leading a particular area.


Q: Diversity and inclusion for women in leadership has certainly made significant progress in corporations over the last several decades. What do you see as the biggest obstacle for continued growth for women in corporate America?

A: If we look back over the last several years, there’s been a lot of growth, whether it’s specifically about women in leadership or our diverse populations, and that’s really encouraging to me. There is more awareness and maybe a lot more intentionality as we’re thinking about our actions or evaluating more broadly and holistically when we are looking at who we put in in leadership and how we select the right individuals. And that’s really important. So, I call that growth from where we were several years ago. That’s momentum, right? But when you talk about what’s the challenge, it’s how to keep that momentum and turn it into velocity.


To me, the challenge is how to keep that velocity and fill the pipeline to keep that forward motion, not just as individuals but together as the collective network because it takes all of us. It takes commitment and awareness and intentionality, not just as individuals, but together as the wider and broader community. So, how do we keep that going and to create that ripple effect. If you drop a stone in the water, eventually the waves fade out.


Q: So how do you keep dropping those stones, so to speak, to keep that ripple going and that forward momentum going?

A: It’s still a challenge. In an interview [with MBN USA] a few years back, we talked about creating space for women, not to just participate but to intentionally invest in their growth to help them be seen and recognized for everything that they’re capable of and to give them the opportunity to contribute.


It’s the advocacy, the investment and it’s not just among women for other women, but in the broader community at large. So, I see a lot more men advocating for women. They have daughters at home. They have wives. You know just the whole industry and the working population is continuing to evolve. So, keeping that focus and keeping that velocity is both challenging but also positive.


Q: Let’s talk about your core philosophy and organizational leadership. What’s your style and how do you manage that piece?

A: In my personal life and in my professional life at Honda, it starts with respect for individuals. That translates into recognizing that everyone has a talent or a capability, and often they’ve not even recognized it themselves. That’s the source of my joy, helping them to see those inner talents and capabilities, those natural strengths. And then the weaknesses, too. A lot of times, we talk about both strengths and weaknesses to help individuals recognize, oh gosh, I need to improve this, or I can’t do that. One of the things in my leadership journey I recognized a few years back – thankfully through 360 where I received some feedback from the people that I work with – is that we don’t always have to focus on fixing the weaknesses.


What we should do as leaders is figure out how to compensate for them, and by compensation, I mean that we can leverage other individuals that we work with to help us with that, to take care of that, to delegate, to advocate. We don’t have to put so much energy into those things that we feel are broken. We’re all leveraging our strengths.


Q: What would you like your legacy to be at Honda?

A: I’m very passionate about leadership and people. So, when I think about how I would like others to remember me, it’s about how I’ve helped individuals in their personal growth as well as in their organizational and developmental growth.


I’ve had roles in my career here at Honda that were focused on improvement and transformation, taking a problem and collecting a team to help fix that problem. But not just fix the individual problem, but the kind of systemic matter that might have been at hand and how to really transform beyond what we thought was possible.


My success is not my own. It’s really the success of the team. So, I’d like to be remembered as having the impact to just again harness that capability that individuals have on their own and then, collectively as a team, to really drive transformative, positive impact. 


American Honda Motor Co. Women’s Business Enterprise National Council Ohio River Valley Great Lakes Business Council Women’s Lunch & Learn Monica Oliverio Honda

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