We have many pockets of good things, but we want to bring it all together and then take it to the next level.”
CryStAl AShby: hello, mary. how did equity become a practice you personally support?
mAry bArrA: i feel it’s the way i was raised. my parents were older, so they grew up during the depression. that was their foundation. And i truly believe i have the opportunity to be the Ceo today because of the work that general motors has done with diversity over decades. We’re still working at leveling the playing field. I’m proud of what we’ve done, and i know we have more to do. the george Floyd murder really affected me. i felt an incredible call to action. i was also mad at myself. Why hadn’t we taken a stand before? i can’t go back to change that, but i can certainly make sure we go forward. We can’t let this news cycle fade. it’s happened too many times. We have to change. now has to be the time.
We have to change. Now has to be the time.”
CA: When you thought about your team and how you were going to galvanize them into action, how did you share your authenticity?
mb: i believe you have to start with yourself, and because i’m responsible for general motors, i have to start there, too. i wrote a note to the whole company, and i think what really brought my leadership team of 15 people together were the responses we got when i posted the note. i still get goose bumps when i think about some of the personal stories people told of their experiences at gm that weren’t what i want them to be. the stories led to listening sessions. We had town halls on inclusion. We’ve also had two listening sessions with the leadership of gmAAn, our African-American erg [employee resource group]. the leaders asked everybody to share how they’re feeling. the words were hard to hear, but we kept peeling back to a deeper level, to understand why they felt that way. then the senior team and i started examining all our policies and procedures, from hiring, promotions, development, marketing, and communication to dealer and supplier diversity. We have many pockets of good things, but we want to bring it all together and then take it to the next level. every fall we get our top 230 company leaders from around the globe together for a session on business and culture. We were virtual this year, so we broke it up into different topics. The first one was on diversity, equity and inclusion [dei]. i started off by saying i’m still learning, so if i say something wrong because i don’t understand, i hope you’ll help me understand. Please don’t cancel me!
CA: how do you engage your many stakeholders – the investors, your employees, your customers, community organizations – on this journey?
mb: our iAB [inclusion Advisory Board] includes one dealer and one supplier, and they’ll take messaging back to their colleagues. And we have strong support from our investors, especially from those who have been with us a long time. We share what we stand for, because we believe that leads to better business performance. i also ask investors, how can you not support creating an environment where all people bring their true – and best – selves to work? And frankly, the pushback answers i get are not very good. i’m not saying i’ve won everyone over. But that’s what we’re trying to achieve.
CA: how do you plan to make change sustainable, to become a part of the organization’s foundation, not to mention a part of your legacy?
mb: that’s something we’re really focused on. We’re looking holistically at all the company systems, since people respond better to what gets measured. We’re setting goals and holding ourselves accountable. our number one goal has long been to have health, workplace safety and product safety, and we just added psychological safety last month at our global safety Week. that opens up a link to our dei work.
CA: that’s a great strategy, and I look forward to reports. thanks so much for your time, mary.
mb: thank you, Crystal.
university, and substantial funds have also been raised from corporate partners and alumni. each university has hired a fulltime program director, and the program services, put together in collaboration with the universities, are rich: mentoring, tutoring, eLC members as guest lecturers, summer internships, one-on-one coaching, mental health assessments, and an all-important process for assessing and measuring results. “We’re confident that these approaches will work,” said deese, “but we’re prepared to iterate as we learn, to include those learnings. “We believe this program can be transformative for the young men and their families,” explains deese. “if through our Black male graduation rates initiative we can unlock – and we believe we can – the barriers that make young Black men underperform, and we can demonstrate that these interventions are successful, then there’s no doubt in our minds that it can be replicated and have a tremendous exponential effect over time.” “my long-term relationship with Colleen Amos [oBe] was instrumental in forming my concept,” states Leatherberry. “Colleen, with her sister, baroness valerie Amos, founded Amos Bursary in 1999, a support system for young British men of African and Caribbean descent, and we have learned from their experience. through our eLC members in the uK, we are able to support Black male achievement in both countries. to create this eLC initiative with her experience and under the leadership of my first and most important mentor and friend, Willie deese, just multiplies the blessings.” Charitable Investments and scholarships the eLC annually explores purposefocused and mission-aligned charitable endeavors that include new initiatives, partnerships and directed charitable giving. Last year’s charitable investments totaled almost $1 million, reaching 27 organizations ranging from leadership development and internship opportunities
“If through our Black Male Graduation Rates initiative we can unlock – and we believe we can – the barriers that make young Black men underperform…then there’s no doubt in our minds that it can have a tremendous exponential effect…”
for HBCu students to technical training for entrepreneurs, so they can take their businesses to the next level. the investments this year exceeded that amount. in addition, with eLC funds and donations from individual corporate sponsors, the eLC provided almost $850,000 in scholarships in 2020 to more than 70 students at both undergraduate and graduate educational institutions for academic achievement to: Alvaro L. martins scholars; Ann Fudge scholars; Nationwide’s Future Leaders; bristol Myers squibb scholars; Linde’s engineers of tomorrow; raytheon technologies scholars winners of the Award for excellence in Business Competition, sponsored by the Coca-Cola Foundation; and winners of the national Business Case Competition, sponsored by ExxonMobil. As a scholarship benefit, all recipients participate in an Honors symposium that is designed to encourage them to continue their interest in business careers.
the ELC Institute for Leadership Development and research
the institute has always been responsible for developing and presenting a series of unique training opportunities for Black corporate executives and an everexpanding pipeline of younger Black corporate professionals ready to fill their shoes. But over the last year, the institute’s achievements have mushroomed.