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GM adds Meg Whitman to its majority-women board

Bloomberg via Getty Images

Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman is joining the board of General Motors, adding another woman to one of the more diverse boards in corporate America.

Also joining the board is Mark Tatum, deputy commissioner and chief operating officer of the National Basketball Association, who is both Black and Asian.

With their addition to the GM board, the automaker will have 13 directors — including seven women and three people of racial and ethnic minority backgrounds. That sets GM apart: Only about 5% of US corporate boards have women comprise at least half of members, according to the public interest group 50/50 Women on Boards.

GM is also the only major automaker with a female CEO: Mary Barra, who has led the company since 2014. Barra was named chairman of the GM board in 2016. (Tesla also has a female chairman, Robyn Denholm, who assumed the role in 2018 after the Securities and Exchange Commission forced CEO Elon Musk out of that role because he had tweeted out information about the company that proved not to be true.)

Tatum is responsible for the NBA’s global business operations, including its global partnerships, marketing, team marketing, business operations and communications departments. He became the league’s deputy commissioner and COO in 2014.

Aside from leading HP, Whitman had previously served as CEO of eBay and also currently sits on the board of Procter & Gamble, which is the second largest company after GM with at least 50% female directors. At GM, she will join other women on the board including Patricia Russo, who is chairwoman of Hewlett Packard Enterprise and a former chairwoman and CEO of Alcatel-Lucent.

Boards are growing more diverse, but they have a long way to go. For example, 2020 marked the first time that every S&P 500 company had at least one woman on their board, yet women still comprised only 28% of those companies’ board positions at the end of that year, according to a study by Spencer Stuart.

Companies have been under pressure to become more diverse. California passed a new law requiring public companies based in the state to have at least one board member from an underrepresented community by the end of 2021, and at least two or three — depending on the board’s size -— by the end of 2022.

Nasdaq is also proposed a rule that would require certain diversity of board directors for companies to have shares traded on the exchange.

GM said it became the first Fortune 500 company with an African-American director when Rev. Leon Sullivan joined its board in 1971. And it became the first automaker with a female director when Catherine Cleary joined the board the following year, according to the company.

In 2016, it became the first major industrial company with an even gender split on its board with the appointment of Jane Mendillo. Women became a majority of the GM board in 2019.

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