GE: Building a World That Works for Everyone

by Savoy Staff

By Mike Barber, Chief Diversity Officer, GE

Thomas Edison is best-known as the inventor of the modern light bulb, but Edison was only one of several people trying to illuminate people’s homes and lives at the time. Lewis Latimer was an African American engineer whose patents and other inventions (most notably his work on carbon filaments) made light bulbs last longer.

Edison hired Latimer in 1884 and he quickly became a key member of Edison’s team and later the founding member of the Edison Pioneers, a group of engineers who helped develop the electric industry. Eight years later, Edison co-founded GE and that spirit of collaboration and innovation to solve tough challenges has continued to be a part of the GE culture.

I believe that the work we do at GE continues to be fundamental to a world that works. Together with our customers, we create a third of the world’s electricity generation capacity; engineer cleaner, more accessible energy that people depend on; invent the future of flight while flying people around the world and bringing them home safely; and delivering healthcare technology that improves lives for patients in every corner of the world in moments that matter. These aren’t small tasks, but for every challenge that seems daunting there’s a chance to rise to it. That’s something we’ve come to know a thing or two about over the last 100 years.

2020 has highlighted one of the most pervasive challenges globally – systemic inequality. We have seen tragic example after example of racial injustice, we’ve witnessed the rights of LGBTQ+ community questioned and litigated, and have been reminded of the underrepresentation of women, Black and other underrepresented minorities in offices and board rooms. As the pandemic worsened, these inequalities deepened. As daunting as this challenge is, we are committed to taking bold steps towards a more diverse workforce and an inclusive and equitable workplace.

At GE, we believe diversity makes us more competitive and creates value for our customers, shareholders, and employees. We believe in the value of each person’s unique identity, background, and experiences and are committed to fostering an inclusive culture, where everyone feels empowered to do their best work because they feel accepted, respected, and that they belong. Simply said, we believe that by embracing diverse teams and perspectives, we are better equipped to build a world that works.

We also believe accountability is key to drive real progress on diversity. That’s why our Chairman and CEO Larry Culp asked me to take on the role of Chief Diversity Officer (CDO) for GE and named a CDO for each GE business that reports directly to
their business CEO. Collectively we are developing and driving key performance indicators (KPIs) for diversity and inclusion for the GE business units. These KPIs are tracked and owned with the same level of operational rigor as our financial, safety and quality KPIs. We will also share our diversity data on an annual basis. This is important for GE to indicate where we are today and the progress we have yet to make. Finally, we’re executing on the GE Foundation’s commitment of $1 million (USD) to fund economic inclusion with a focus on education and supplier development.

These are some of the important initial steps we are taking as a Company to move forward. There is no quick fix and we have much more work to do, but we are deeply committed.

Over 40 years ago, I started my career as an intern with GE. That door opened for me because I was a diverse high school
student interested in engineering, but that’s not what kept me here. Being at a company where my ideas were valued and having access to mentors and executives that looked like me made a difference. At GE, with our partners and advocates across countries and industries, we rise to the challenge of building a world that works for everyone.

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