GM has placed a newfound focus on diversity and inclusion under the guidance of CEO Mary Barra, but while the 60-year-old has certainly helped to advance the automaker’s culture of acceptance, the automaker has been a vocal proponent of such causes for over 50 years.
One needs to look no further than the Minority Dealer Development Program for proof of GM’s long-standing efforts to be a more diverse workplace. The Minority Dealer Development Program recently celebrated 50 years of promoting GM retail store ownership among minorities in America, evidence that the automaker is not latching onto social causes as a trend or for marketing purposes, Shana B. Eastern, GM’s senior manager of diversity dealer development, told Automotive News in a recent interview.
“It’s not something that we’ve just started doing because of what’s going on in the world,” Easter said. “It’s something that we’ve been committed to.”
Established in 1972 by well-known GM board member Dr. Rev. Leon Sullivan, who was also the first African-American on the board of a major corporation, the Minority Dealer Development Program helps to promote minority store ownership within GM’s fold. According to AN, the program also works to maintain minority ownership at dealerships when the existing owner moves to sell the store, which can be done by bringing in second-generation dealers or bringing in a different minority dealer from elsewhere in its dealership pool. GM’s minority dealers comprise individuals from a wide variety of races and backgrounds, including African American, Asian, Hispanic and Native American.
A total of 314 dealers are enrolled in the Minority Dealer Development Program, AN reports. The automaker said that while it used to focus mainly on the numbers to gauge the program’s success, they’ve since begun looking at the bigger picture and placing more emphasis on where it can provide the best opportunities for would-be minority GM dealers. The evaluation process for the program is difficult, AN says, with a vigorous vetting and interview process and minimum requirements for experience.
According to a Bloomberg index, GM was above average in certain diversity metrics last year, with 19.1 percent of the automaker’s U.S. workforce listing their race as Black, as compared to the national average of 14 percent. Additionally, 27 percent listed their gender as female, as compared to the national average of 23.9 percent.