General Motors Chairman and CEO Mary Barra addresses the gathering Wednesday, June 3, 2020 during a press conference of corporate leaders speaking out against racism and injustice at City Hall in Detroit, Michigan.
General Motors CEO and Chairman Mary Barra put the responsibility on herself to ensure the company continues to focus on diversity following the death of George Floyd and other black Americans, which have sparked protests and riots across the country.
“It’s my responsibility as CEO of this company to make sure it doesn’t fall off the agenda,” Barra said Tuesday during LinkedIn’s “This is Working.”
The automaker, according to Barra, is setting near-, medium- and long-term goals regarding diversity and inclusion that will assist the company moving forward. The goals also will allow employees to hold leaders accountable for the initiatives.
Her comments expand on a letter she sent to employees following the death of Floyd after a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes during an arrest despite cries that he could not breathe.
In the letter, Barra said she was “impatient and disgusted” following the deaths of Floyd and other black Americans such as Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor. She also announced plans to create an “inclusion advisory board” of both internal and external leaders, which she will chair.
“Putting this in writing is not enough,” she wrote. “In addition to affirming the above principles, we are taking immediate action.” Barra said Tuesday she has already spoken with senior leaders of the company regarding such goals.
She compared the relentless focus the company plans to have on inclusion and diversity to GM’s shift to focus on safety in the wake of an ignition switch recall scandal in 2014. Barra has said she never wants employees to forget the crisis in an attempt not relive it.
“We reinforce safety on a monthly basis, but once a year we dedicate a week to product safety and workplace safety and making sure people know why it’s so important,” she said. “That kind of commitment over many years … needs to continue.”
The ignition switch scandal caused the company to redesign its safety processes and fire some employees involved with the mishandling of the defect that’s been linked to 124 deaths and 275 injuries.
GM spent billions in recall costs and settlements to victims and their families, including a $900 million fine as part of an agreement with the Justice Department after the Detroit automaker was charged with concealing information from government officials and wire fraud.