awards

Ms. Mary T. Barra
September 23, 2014
Thank you Jerry Speyer for that kind introduction, and thank you Rabbi Schneier for this extraordinary award.

Rabbi, your visionary leadership and the Foundation’s efforts to promote human rights and individual respect are timeless ideals for all of us to follow. So thank you for all that you do.

I would like to begin this evening by congratulating the other honorees, Mr. Bob Iger, chairman of the Walt Disney Company, and The Honorable Enrique Pena Nieto , the president of Mexico.

It is an honor to share the stage with them, as General Motors has strong ties with both.

GM was Disney’s first corporate partner at EPCOT in 1979 and we’ve been with the Disney team ever since. More recently, more than 90 percent of our dealers have participated in the Disney Institute’s world-renowned customer experience training.

And just last month, I had the pleasure of meeting with President Nieto and his team in Mexico. Next year will mark the 80th anniversary of GM operations in Mexico.

Again, congratulations to both of you.

An award like this is certainly a great personal honor, but more importantly, it is a great tribute to the tens of thousands of GM employees, dealers and suppliers around the world who have made GM a leader in social responsibility.

One of the dangers in receiving an award like this is the temptation to believe you have achieved your goal. And yet one look at the headlines this past month… or any month reminds us that the struggle for tolerance, freedom and inclusion is far from over.

But thanks to Rabbi Schneier and the efforts of so many others, significant progress has been made. In fact, I am a beneficiary of this progress, as are millions of others around the world.

The life I lead today was not remotely possible just a generation ago.

My father was a die maker at GM’s Pontiac Motor Division for 39 years. He retired from GM in 1980 – the same year I started.

In the last 10 years of my father’s career, he saw GM elect its first African-American board member, the Rev. Leon Sullivan. He saw GM elect its first woman board member. He saw GM establish the industry’s first minority supplier and minority dealer programs.

My Dad saw a lot of change and a lot of work to foster diversity and inclusion within GM. And yet he probably never imagined a day when GM would employ more than 32,000 women around the globe.

When one-fifth of our executives would be women.
When one-fourth of our officers and one-third of our board members would be women.
And I doubt he ever imagined that GM would have a woman CEO.
So, yes – we have made great progress, but there is more work to do and more progress to achieve.

One of the best things about my job is the opportunity to meet or talk with customers and employees from every one of the more than 120 nations where GM does business.

The more people I meet, the more clear it becomes to me that people everywhere are much more alike than they are different.

We all want to be treated with equality and respect. We all want the chance to contribute to our full potential.

That’s why we have made diversity a priority for today’s GM. And that’s why we are working to strengthen our diversity practices around the world.

At GM, we believe that world-class companies require world-class communities. So, our approach has always been to become part of the communities in which we operate – to serve and improve those communities, all around the world.

We put so much work into diversity, inclusion and community development because we need the industry’s best minds to address the historic opportunities we face.

We believe the best way to improve and grow is to tap the diversity that exists all around us, and to ensure that everyone has a chance to contribute to his or her full potential.

This strategy has worked well for GM. I believe it has equal merit for society at large.

And that is why we so admire the work of Rabbi Schneier and the Appeal of Conscience Foundation and why we, the GM team, are so humbled and honored to receive this award.

Thank you.
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