Robin Walker-Lee

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                                    Robin Walker-Lee
                           Arab International Women's Forum
                                 Brussels, April 8, 2005

Good morning, and thank you for inviting me to this important conference. In my current position

at GM, I am responsible for legal and government affairs for the region that covers Latin America,

Africa and the Middle East. At General Motors we recognize not only the need to empower

women, but also to become more relevant to our female customers, and for a long time now we

have been implementing policies toward those ends. This is not just a moral imperative, but also

represents best business practices.

As you can imagine, the auto industry has the reputation of being male-dominated. In fact, the

highest compliment in our business is to be called a “car guy”. So, we had a tough challenge ahead

of us. I started at GM 20 years ago, and, believe me, I have seen incredible change in that period

of time.

I think all of us at GM are proud of the progress we've made, and we've identified some methods

that work. We’re far from satisfied, and we have a long way to go, but we have some ideas about

how to get there, which I'll share with you today.

We're serving a diverse customer base, and the better we understand our customers and their

needs, the better we can serve them. Even in Saudi Arabia, GM's largest market in the Middle

East, where women do not drive, we know that women influence fully 60% of vehicle purchasing


So we strive to put women in key GM roles, and to do that we support their

early-stage careers, and I'll discuss how we do that in some detail. First let me describe GM's

profile in the Middle East. Through its regional headquarters in Dubai, GM oversees operations

in Bahrain, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates,

Syria and Yemen -- the largest presence of any automaker in the region.

GM offers a range of vehicles in the region under the Chevrolet, Cadillac, GMC, Opel, Saab and

Hummer brands.     Together with our retailers, we employ 25,000 people throughout the Middle


But the global automotive industry has never been more competitive. In such a tough business

environment, we must get the top talent available; and to overlook women just reduces our

chances by up to 50%. This is not idle talk. My boss, the President of GM Latin America, Africa

& Middle East, one of the four regions in the company, is a woman -- Maureen Kempston Darkes.

Incidentally, she has asked me to express her sincerest wishes for the success of this

conference, and to greet the attendees on her behalf.

How are we proceeding? At General Motors, it is a management objective of each of the four

regional presidents to increase the number of outstanding women managers and executives in

the Company. GM has established specific gender targets for every region, and monitors them at

the highest level on a regular basis. To make certain we are succeeding, we count. That is the

only way we can be accountable.

Today, GM worldwide has close to 90% more women executives than it did just 10 years ago.

The number of women in the most senior ranks -- that is, the top 400 positions globally --

increased 180%. And while 10 years ago the LAAM region had no female executives, today 10%

of our manager and executive employees are female, and of course, a woman holds the top job.

At the Middle East Headquarters in Dubai today, nearly 30% of our local employees are women,

including key manager positions.

What does GM do at every level to develop female talent?

  Management Training: Candidates for future manager and executive positions are identified

early in their careers so that they can have important work experiences to develop their

capabilities.    Additionally, they have the opportunity to participate in leadership development

programs where they interact with top management and meet others in the Company with similar

potential.   The candidate list is reviewed to make sure women are represented in sufficient


  Work/Life Balance: Through an outside service provider, GM employees globally are regularly

asked for their confidential feedback on job satisfaction. After repeated surveys, we are able to

see trends over time. One of the areas surveyed is work/life balance, which is of special interest

to women, who increasingly are raising young children while working full-time. My own children

have now grown and left home; when they did, I felt I had been working 2 full-time jobs and just

retired from one of them. Many working mothers feel the pressure of competing responsibilities.

In our regional headquarters in Florida, the results of the survey regarding work/life balance were

not as positive as we had expected. Through a workshop championed by our regional president,

our employees surfaced ideas that could make it easier to balance family responsibilities with a

demanding job schedule. Several of the ideas were based on new communications technologies

that enable employees to attend meetings via conference call and Internet from their homes; this

flexibility is especially important when time differences between offices require employees to work

outside their normal hours. Many of the ideas from this workshop were adopted by management

and implemented -- a direct result of the valuable feedback provided by our employees.

  Networking:       As part of its commitment to diversity, GM has formed what we call the Affinity

Group for Women. This group was formed in the US 5 years ago and now has over 2,000 active

employee members, from all levels and functions of the Company. We are just now beginning to

include the non-US operations in the women's affinity group. The objectives of the group are to:

        -       increase GM's profitable share of the women's market

        -       attract, involve, and retain great women employees

       -   provide programs and tools to assist women in career development

And in the Middle East itself, GM's strategies for business success align well with creating

opportunities for women. They include:

   •   Building    relationships   --   with   customers,   dealers,   suppliers,   employees,   and

       governments. GM partnerships in the Arab World are one of our most powerful assets in

       the region. Our biggest retailer is in Saudi Arabia and he believes his business and

       country will prosper by the inclusion of women in Saudi economic life. In Jordan, our

       Chevrolet retail partner is run by a woman general manager. Building relationships is

       fundamental to our success. Women often have a particular strength in relationship


   •   Developing the best talent and supporting a robust exchange of knowledge and

       experience, and not just within the Company. GM provides internships to students at the

       American University of Sharja, offering critical work experience and allowing them to

       make business decisions early in their careers.         We recently hosted a group of 25

       students from Sharja at our headquarters in Miramar, Florida. At the Middle East Auto

       Show in Dubai in December, our regional president spoke to a group of young people

       identified by the UAE Government as high potential, future government and business

       leaders, and women made up about half of this group! And GM has recently announced

       plans to open training facilities to develop local talent for the auto industry in both the

       UAE and Saudi Arabia.

   •   Leveraging our Corporate reputation. GM's operating principles apply in every country

       where we do business, and GM is seen as a positive influence in most countries.            A

       constant theme we hear from women we speak to in the Middle East is their respect for

       corporate cultures that value integrity, results, diversity and equal opportunity.

   In summary, here are my 3 main recommendations for corporate action:

1. Set annual targets for the number of women in management positions, with attainment of

    targets a measurable objective.

2. Formalize training and networking opportunities so that women are exposed to top

    company management and to other women who share career aspirations and


3. Through surveys or focus groups, document input from women employees about career

    challenges and take action to address issues on a systematic basis.

I'd like to close by noting that GM was contacted by a US Government program to sponsor a

woman intern from Ramallah last year. She had a strong finance background and worked in

our regional headquarters in the US for several months to learn about our Corporate culture,

and to share with us her perspectives. She happened to be with us when Yasser Arafat died,

so we were able to see the concerns and hopes of that part of the world through her eyes. I

was honored to get to know her and to host her visit to our Global Corporate Headquarters in

Detroit, where she met with many of our senior officers and made a terrific impression. I like

to believe the presence of women in senior executive positions in global companies also is a

source of inspiration in many parts of the world.

Thank you.