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Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors on Increasing Diversity.

Mary Barra has been the chairman and CEO of General Motors since 2014. Barra, a native of Royal Oak Mich., a suburb just outside of Detroit, has gained much success as a businesswoman.  Barra said that her goal is to make General Motors the “most inclusive company in the world.”

“Even while I was with General Motors before I was in the CEO role I understood and discussed the importance of inclusion,” Barra said. “We believe inclusivity will lead us to better business. At General Motors we really do understand the power of diversity.” General Motors is the parent company to Chevrolet. Chevrolet also has been committed to increasing diversity. The Chevrolet Discover the Unexpected program selects various students from Historically Black Colleges and Universities and awards each student a $15,000 scholarship and an internship at a Black-owned newspaper.

Barra said education is very important to General Motors.  “One of our corporation’s main pillars is education. That focus is to make sure we are constantly creating more resources.” Barra said.  Barra has hosted various meetings with other General Motors staff members to increase diversity. Barra said that she realized the need for diversity in General Motors is “very different” across the globe.

“When we had our first session on diversity and inclusion with our senior leaders from all across the globe, We realized diversity looks different everywhere. In the Middle East, a lot of diversity challenges are based around religion. There also are gender diversity issues in many places. This was a good chance for me to understand what diversity looks like in various parts of the world.” Barra said.

On June 25, Derek Chauvin was sentenced to 22 and a half years in prison for the death of George Floyd. Barra was vocal about George Floyd’s death and released a statement on behalf of General Motors.  “The sad thing was with George Floyd it was not the first. There had been other issues. I really felt incredibly sad. I was also sad for his family. We realized we as a company have to stop talking about why this happens and start to do something. That is really what the statement I made representing General Motors included,” Barra said.

Despite receiving some backlash for her goal of making General Motors more inclusive, Barra said inclusion and diversity are vital to making General Motors better.  “When I get push back sometimes from others internally in the company about my desire to increase inclusivity at General Motors I ask them, How could you not want an environment where everyone could come to work and be their best self and feel comfortable? That is the environment we strive for,” Barra said.

Barra said that she works closely with staff members in each area of General Motors to help increase diversity. “I do individual reviews with each area of the company where we look into diversity in hiring, retaining, etc. We set goals for every area and do these inclusion reviews every six months. This is really our focus,” Barra said.  Barra said she wants General Motors to be the “most inclusive company in the world.”

“We really want General Motors to become the most inclusive company in the world. It starts with our foundation. We want our culture at General Motors to make all of our employees feel valued, belonging, and a place where they can be their true selves.  We’re on the journey to increasing inclusivity and we have more to do,” Barra said.

Jasmine Franklin is a DTU Fellow and current editor of the Grambling State University newspaper, The Gramblinite.

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