Bloom Where You’re Planted: GM’s Telva McGruder on Leadership, DEI, and Amplifying Women in STEM

by | Apr 19, 2022 | Leading Organizations, Women in Leadership

While women continue to be underrepresented in top leadership positions around the world, some organizations are taking action to address this inequity. General Motors (GM) has long understood that unique perspectives are key to success in the marketplace. Women represent 30% of General Motors’ top management positions, making the organization a global leader in advocating for women’s equity in the workplace. This commitment to diversity inspired the Sanger Leadership Center at the Ross School of Business to partner with GM to create the Women in Leadership (WiL) program. WiL aims to provide space to increase agency, amplify women’s voices, and work with women and allies to overcome barriers. 

On April 6, Telva McGruder, the chief diversity, equity, and inclusion officer for GM, was the featured presenter for WiL. McGruder was joined by Cheri Alexander, executive coach and professor of management and organizations at Ross, to discuss how GM is accelerating gender equity for women and the importance of unique perspectives that drive a global brand. Throughout the conversation, McGruder explained how GM is amplifying women in STEM and uplifting inclusive and diverse teams to create a more just and equitable society. “Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) is everyone’s responsibility,” she said. “It manifests very locally in the decisions that we make every day. No matter what part of the business that you’re in, you can incorporate these pillars into the work that you’re doing.”

Expanding on the subject of DEI, McGruder expressed her support for the WiL series. “I think one of the most important things that universities can do is to create environments where the students actually have the ability to practice the skills that they’re going to need when they move into the workforce,” McGruder commented. “To have an organization like Sanger that is focused on leadership and then have a program like WiL, which really starts to arm students and professionals with this understanding of how to lead, is a big deal.”

When asked what advice she would give to someone just starting out in their careers, McGruder suggested self-reflection. “One of the most important things to do is to bloom where you’re planted and the way to bloom is to understand what makes you grow,” she said. “You need to understand who you are, what’s important to you, and what makes you tick. What gives you energy? In any role you have, you want to find that energy so that you can do a great job. When that starts happening, people will pay attention.”

Erica Haughton, Sanger’s associate director of integrative experiences, emphasized the importance of WiL and praised the efforts of both McGruder and GM. “Telva McGruder is the perfect exemplification of GM’s commitment to creating more inclusive and equitable environments for all to thrive. She understands that change needs to come from the top but also shared ways that individuals can accelerate their development through self-awareness and a growth mindset,” Haughton commented. “I do not doubt that everyone in the audience, including myself, left feeling inspired and empowered. We’re incredibly grateful to Telva for sharing a wealth of knowledge and advice and the sponsorship and partnership that GM provided to make WiL possible.”

Telva McGruder, Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer at General Motors