DETROIT — General Motors is adding two high-profile executives to its board of directors and expanding its commitment to diversity in the process.
Meg Whitman, the former CEO of Hewlett Packard Enterprise, and Mark Tatum, deputy commissioner and COO of the National Basketball Association, are joining GM's board effective Thursday, GM said.
With the election of Whitman, 64, and Tatum, 51, GM now has 13 directors, seven of whom are women, making GM the only automaker with more than half its board comprised of women, according to website 50/50 Women on Boards, which tracks the gender composition of corporate boards in the Russell 3000 Index.
Of the women on GM's board, one identifies as Hispanic, one as African American and one as Asian/African American, said GM spokesman Jim Cain.
In fact, even tech giants Apple and Facebook are behind GM on gender diversity on their board of directors. Only Amazon comes closest with 50% of its board members being women, according to The Org, a publication that says its mission is to make organizations more transparent.
“This is very much an effort at diversity," said Marick Masters, professor of business at Wayne State University. "Obviously, these people bring high qualifications to the table. But the more GM can move to have a diverse profile at the board level, the better off they are. It signals their commitment to that goal for the workforce.”
GM is one of only 154 companies nationwide that has a gender-balanced board, meaning half, one more, or one less than half of corporate board seats are occupied by women, according to 50/50 Women on Boards.
GM has also been a leader in diversity, having been the first Fortune 500 company to seat an African American director on the board, the Rev. Leon Sullivan, in 1971, Cain said. GM was the first automaker to elect the first woman, Catherine B. Cleary, to its board in 1972, whereas Ford Motor Co.'s first female director was elected in 1976; Honda’s in 2014.
Diversity and different perspectives on a board of directors is critical for profits, said Harley Shaiken, a business professor at the University of California, Berkeley.
“That’s a milestone and I would give GM credit for that,” Shaiken said. “There’s a new sensibility and they are moving with it versus dragging their feet on it. I suspect that it is broader in the company, I don’t know to what extent, but it will ultimately be much broader across the company.”
GM's 12 independent directors have senior leadership and board experience in the fields of information technology, digital commerce, retail, higher education, investment management, international affairs, defense, transportation, cybersecurity, and pharmaceuticals.
A board of directors is elected by shareholders to represent their interests. Every public company must have a board made up of people from inside and outside the company. It decides a variety of matters, from high-level hiring, to dividend policies and payouts, and executive compensation.
GM Chairman and CEO Mary Barra said the diversity of GM's board is a competitive advantage as GM works towards selling all light-duty zero-emissions vehicles by 2035.
“Mark and Meg will bring unique experiences to the Board, especially in technology, brand building and customer experience that will help us drive value for shareholders and other GM stakeholders now and into the future," Barra said in a statement.
Besides Barra and Whitman, here are GM's other female board members:
Pat Russo, chairman of Hewlett-Packard Enterprise Company. Linda Gooden, retired executive vice president at Lockheed Martin. Jane Mendillo, retired CEO of Harvard Management Company. Judith Miscik, CEO and vice chairman of Kissinger Associates, Inc. Carol Stephenson, retired dean of Ivey Business School, University of Western Ontario.
By comparison here is how some other automaker's boards stack up in terms of gender:
Tesla: 2 of 9 are women Ford: 4 of 14 are women Stellantis (formerly Fiat Chrysler Automobiles): 3 of 11 are women Toyota: 2 of 14 are women Nissan: 2 of 12 are women Renault: 6 of 16 (one is not independent) are women Volkswagen Supervisory Board: 6 of 20 are women
Changing the business model
Last year, GM announced it is investing $27 billion through 2025 to launch 30 electric vehicles globally and commercialize self-driving technology. GM said it will sell more than 1 million EVs annually by mid-decade too.
The company has also said it plans to be carbon neutral in global products and operations by 2040, and it aspires to eliminate tailpipe emissions from new light-duty vehicles by 2035.
“I have tremendous respect for the commitments Mary and her team are making and the culture they have been building," Whitman said. "GM’s growth strategy has all the elements of a startup but with far greater scale, millions of customers, and a strong underlying business. This makes it a very exciting time to join the Board.”
Tatum noted that GM is changing its century-old business model and, "marshalling thousands of people and billions of dollars to drive solutions that matter for the environment, communities, businesses and investors."
"Joining the Board and helping accelerate that change is an honor and I look forward to working with the GM team and my fellow directors to make it happen.”
MBAs from Harvard
Whitman, who earned an undergraduate degree in economics from Princeton University and an MBA from Harvard University, was most recently president of Quibi Holdings LLC, a media start-up, from 2018-2021.
From 2011-2015, Whitman was CEO of computer hardware and services multinational Hewlett-Packard Co. She was CEO of Hewlett Packard Enterprise, a global information technology company from 2015-2018 and CEO of eBay Inc. from 1998-2008.
Tatum was appointed NBA deputy commissioner and chief operating officer in early 2014. In his current role, he runs the NBA’s global business operations, including leading the NBA’s international efforts.
Tatum, who joined the NBA in 1999, also oversees the global partnerships, marketing, team marketing and business operations and communications departments.He has a bachelor’s degree in Business Management and Marketing from Cornell University and an MBA from Harvard University.
The Board will stand for election at GM’s annual shareholders meeting on June 14.©2021 www.freep.com. Visit at freep.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.