CEO: Jeff Immelt
CDE: Deborah Elam
In this increasingly a global world, GE sees inclusion and diversity as essential to its future. “As we think about global growth, particularly in emerging regions like Africa and Asia, our Affinity Groups have played a huge role for us in finding workers for those regions,” said Deborah Elam, vice president and chief diversity officer. “That has helped us accelerate growth.”
Elam points to GE’s expansion into Ghana. The company found out that employees stationed in Milwaukee, Wisc., who were Ghana natives were willing to move to the African nation to help with expansion into that market. “They knew our company and they knew Ghana and the customs,” Elam recalled. “It was a win-win situation. We’ve seen this replicated elsewhere. We’ve seen it happen in Latin American with our Latin American Affinity Group; we’ve seen it happen in Asian with our Asian-American Affinity Group.
The groups are part of an inclusive culture at GE that fosters teamwork and innovation to help its people, business and communities thrive. The company’s employees have opportunities to develop both professionally and personally through the GE Affinity Networks and Employee Groups. These networks include the African-American Forum (AAF), Asian Pacific Forum (APAF), Hispanic Forum, Veterans Network, Women’s Network, and the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender & Ally Alliance (GLBTA); each is sponsored by corporate executives who provide leadership, vision and resources to support the group’s efforts in making GE a stronger global company.
Elam points to other ways in which employee networks have contributed to GE’s success: Its Women’s Network, for instance, “helps us in regions where women have not necessarily been at the forefront of business. …Those women say, ‘Wow, this is a place where I’d like to work.’ ” Similarly, the Veterans network has helped recruit veterans. “I’ve been in situations where I’ve had veterans say to me, ‘I left the military two years ago and I joined GE, and the fact that you had this network was a factor in choosing GE.’ ”
Some of the numbers that indicate GE’s commitment to diversity include:
- It spends $800 million annually on diverse suppliers.
- It has contributed $198 million to community and educational foundations.
- Employees donate more than 16,000 hours annually to benefit Hispanic communities.
- The company has donated more than $2 million to disabled American veterans
- It donated more than $10 million in cash, equipment and services to areas affected by the tsunami that struck Japan.
The company considers its diversity programs as a competitive advantage in the global marketplace. Its approach to diversity and inclusion continues to earn top recognition from leading publications and organizations, including recognition as a Corporate Challenge Winner from the Latino ERG Summit, being chosen as one of the Most Valuable Employers for Military “Winner” by CivilianJobs.com, selection as a Champion of Diversity by Diversity Careers, a President’s Award from the Society of Women Engineers, and a Work Life Legacy Award for Employers Hiring Transitioning Military Members from the Families and Work Institute.
GE’s diversity and inclusion efforts may be leading the way toward a brighter future but the strength of those efforts stem from the past. The company’s efforts to value diversity began in 1936 – some 30 years before the civil rights movement – with manufacturing site and plant locations, Elam noted. The company’s African-American Forum is more than 20 years old, and the company has had a chief diversity officer for 18 years – longer than most Fortune 500 companies.
“We have a very long and rich history with this,” Elam said. “We’re not new to this at all.”