Group hails GM's Barra for corporate leadership

David Shepardson
Detroit News Washington Bureau

New York — General Motors Co. CEO Mary Barra was honored Tuesday alongside the president of Mexico and the CEO of Disney by the Appeal of Conscience Foundation.

At the black-tie dinner at the Waldorf Astoria hotel, Barra was hailed by the president of the foundation, Rabbi Arthur Schneier.

"Mary, you represent the American dream," he said. "A woman of faith, courage, perseverance and you worked your way up the ladder," he said. "There was a time when we said whatever was good for General Motors was good for America. I will say with the Mary Barra brand that you're going to repeat that saying."

The award was inscribed as a "woman of integrity, an advocate of change and corporate leader with a sense of social responsibility who by deed and action has advanced human dignity for social justice by encouraging a standard in which corporate America and global corporations accept responsibility."

Barra said she was accepting the award "on behalf of the men and women of General Motors."

"It is a great tribute to the tens of thousands of GM employees, dealers and suppliers around the world who have made GM a leader in social responsibility," she said. "Although much progress has been made there's still much work to do."

She has been pressing a message that GM can and needs to do better, and that she is "impatient" to see GM improve.

Barra didn't address the automaker's ignition switch recall crisis in her prepared remarks or during a press availability before the dinner.

It the was the latest high-profile event Barra has made, including an earlier appearance at the Clinton Global Initiative. She will be making a growing number of appearances and has done some national press interviews in recent weeks as she raises her profile in the aftermath of completing the fourth congressional hearing in July into the delayed recall of 2.6 million cars now connected to at least 21 deaths.

Barra noted that 20 percent of GM's executives are women and the automaker employs more than 32,000 women — and one-third of GM's board and a quarter of its officers are women. She said she doubted her "father ever imagined that GM would have a woman CEO."

The dinner was packed with billionaires, New York high-society members and religious leaders.

Barra noted that GM has "strong ties" to both the other winners: Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto and Bob Iger, chairman and CEO of Disney.