A Daughter Of Detroit Defies Odds, Takes Car Industry Into The Future

By Phoebe Wall Howard
Detroit Free Press

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Meet Denise Gray, one of the world’s most respected electrical engineers who is helping guide the auto industry into the future.

DETROIT

Denise Gray arrived at Buca di Beppo Italian Restaurant in Livonia, Mich., along with nearly three dozen clients and employees, for her business dinner.

A well-dressed man she didn’t know took her aside and expressed concern about the evening’s corporate host, a Korean battery company that recently made leadership changes.

Minutes later, she noticed a horrified look on the customer’s face when she introduced herself as the company’s president. The man realized Gray was the leadership of LG Chem’s Michigan Inc. tech center.

“It’s just being a female in a male-dominated industry,” Gray said. “People expect the CEO to be male or Korean or I don’t know. Just not me.”

The little girl raised at Shady Grove Missionary Baptist Church on the corner of McDougall and Charlevoix in Detroit, grew up to be one of the world’s most respected electrical engineers who is helping guide the auto industry into the future.

She designs, develops and manufactures lithium-ion battery systems that turn cars into electric and driverless vehicles and provide power for the DVD system playing “Finding Dory” in the backseat of SUVs across America.

Gray’s operation is a subsidiary of the $24 billion LG Chem Ltd., headquartered in Seoul, South Korea. Her clients include Ford, General Motors, Fiat Chrysler, and Volvo.

“My life is an example of a person who comes from humble beginnings,” Gray said, seated in a pew on a hot July afternoon. It is nearly 90 degrees inside the church. Yet she tells stories, unhurried, for more than an hour on this particular day.

Sunlight splashes through stained-glass windows as perspiration builds on her brow.

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