Since joining Rivian, McDonough has built out her team with several key hires, including bringing in Jeff Baker from Clorox as chief accounting officer. Gerard Dwyer, formerly CFO at Google’s self-driving unit Waymo, was hired in May as vice president of business finance.
It’s not lost on McDonough that she’s a woman in the historically macho world of automobile manufacturing. But that’s something she has dealt with throughout her career, from restaurant kitchens to Wall Street.
“My very first work experience was in a kitchen of 52 French men,” McDonough said. “Being a woman in a male-dominated industry, I learned from the very start how to navigate those waters.”
Like Rivian, EV rival Lucid Group Inc. has a woman at the helm of the finance operations. The pair, however, are still in the minority: Of the 682 Fortune 500 and S&P 500 companies, only 15 percent had a sitting female CFO as of Dec. 31, according to the Crist|Kolder Volatility Report.
‘Toxic bro culture’
In November, Laura Schwab, a former Rivian sales executive sued the company, accusing it of having a “toxic bro culture,” as reported by Automotive News.
McDonough was one of several senior women executives who came to the company’s defense.
In comments in an internal Slack channel that were seen by Bloomberg, she said Rivian’s culture was a strategic advantage and were it not for the company’s support of diversity, she’d never have been hired, given her lack of industry experience.
McDonough didn’t directly address the claims during the interview but repeated praise for Scaringe and Rivian’s culture while acknowledging the importance of diversity.
“I will say that we, collectively as an industry, need to recruit more women into the fold,” McDonough said.
She’ll get a chance to do just that. On the agenda for 2022 is the start of construction on a $5 billion plant in Georgia, which the company says will create more than 7,500 jobs. Rivian is also searching for a site in Europe and is building out a network of fast-charging stations in the U.S. McDonough will oversee all of that spending.
Scaringe told Bloomberg that McDonough has already acquitted herself well.
He said: “Her ability to balance our short- and long-term initiatives to achieve substantial scale is incredible, which coupled with her high intellect makes her a lot of fun to work with.”