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GM appoints Meg Whitman, NBA executive to its board

Kalea Hall, The Detroit News on

Published in Automotive News

DETROIT — General Motors Co. on Thursday added two new directors to its board, further diversifying the automaker's boardroom.

The addition of Meg Whitman, 64, former CEO of Hewlett Packard Enterprise, would give GM seven women on its now 13-member board. Mark Tatum, 51, NBA deputy commissioner and COO who has Asian and African-American heritage, also has been nominated. The board will stand for election at the company's annual shareholders meeting June 14.

"Our diverse Board of Directors is a competitive advantage for GM as we work to deliver a better, safer and more sustainable world," GM Chairman and CEO Mary Barra said in a statement.

Executives from the Detroit Three automakers and other major corporations in the city last year took a pledge to eliminate all forms of bias, racism, sexism and violence within their communities and companies.

For some, part of that process has meant working to diversify boards and executive leadership, which in research has shown to be fruitful for a business' bottom line. The Harvard Business Review, for example, says companies with above-average diversity levels have on average 9% higher pre-tax margins.

"There's a fairness issue right out of the starting gate that we shouldn't be excluding other members of the society," said Cindy Schipani, a professor of business at the University of Michigan and expert in corporate diversity and inclusion. "And then there's the betterment of decisions by just having more diverse opinions in the mix ... most business people can relate to the more data you have, the better decisions you can make."

 

GM notes in its 2019 sustainability report released last summer that 10 of the 11 board members identified as white and one identified as African American.

Ford Motor Co. recently confirmed that two of its board members, Edsel Ford II — a great-grandson of Henry Ford — and retired Eli Lilly CEO John Lechleiter, are stepping down. Alexandra Ford English and Henry Ford III — great-great-grandchildren of Henry Ford — were nominated to fill the seats before a May 13 shareholder vote.

According to Ford's 2020 sustainability report, the board of directors included three women, and two members of the 14-person board identified as part of a minority group. If the new board recruits are approved, Ford would have four women on its board and still two identifying as minority.

Executive Chairman Bill Ford said "the board expects to take steps to further strengthen and diversify its makeup, including in areas that are strategically critical in this important period of transformation and growth," according to a press release.

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