The giant German metalworkers' union, IG Metall, on Tuesday named Joerg Hofmann as its new chief, replacing Detlef Wetzel, who decided not to stand for re-election.
At the same time, the powerful union appointed a woman, Christiane Benner, for the first time as deputy leader.
At a congress in Frankfurt, 60-year-old Hofmann, currently IG Metall's number two, was elected as union leader and 47-year-old Benner as his deputy.
Under normal IG Metall rules, the deputy leader takes over from the leader after a four-year term.
As IG Metall chief, Hofmann will take a seat on the supervisory board of auto giant Volkswagen, which is currently embroiled in a global pollution-cheating scandal.
IG Metall recruited 10,000 new members last year, bringing its total membership up to 2.27 million, only 18 percent of which is women.
It represents workers in a wide of range of industrial sectors, from steel and car making to electronics and even textiles.
It is not only the most powerful union in Germany, but the biggest in Europe.
Unlike his two predecessors, Detlef Wetzel and Berthold Huber, Hofmann did not work his way up through the union from the shop floor, but is an economist by training.
For a long time, he headed IG Metall's regional branch in Baden-Wuerttemberg, home to carmakers Daimler and Porsche.