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How being Black and gay in corporate America shaped General Motors’ Sabin Blake

How being Black and gay in corporate America shaped General Motors' Sabin Blake
Photo provided by GM Communications

COVID-19 has drastically changed the way the world does business. This is especially true for global auto-manufacturer General Motors. From ensuring employees practice safe and effective social distancing by working remotely when possible, to designating $10M to support organizations which promote inclusion and racial justice, one thing remains the constant: General Motors puts their employees first.

Having pushed through numerous barriers in an effort to provide a diverse and inclusive corporate environment, GM continues to be at the forefront of making positive change. An initial $1M of their $10M investment will go to support the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund to help root out racism, bigotry and discrimination, which is an integral part of their mission in building a ‘workplace of choice’ and creating a culture that welcomes and celebrates diversity. In line with celebrating diversity, GM was recently named a Top 50 company for Diversity by DiversityInc. This marks the fifth consecutive year that GM has made the top 50 list. Additionally, GM received special recognition among the top companies for LGTBQ employee engagement.

General Motors are pioneers in achieving many “firsts” as well, including being the first and only automaker to sign both the Equality Act and Amicus Brief supporting the prevention of LGBTQ discrimination and also being the first automaker to join the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC). Their GM PLUS employee resource group (ERG) is a first of its kind, as it’s dedicated to gay lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning (LGBTQ) employees and their allies, with a vision that all GM employees feel safe, respected, valued and supported in their workplace.

Sabin Blake, manager of Business Operations and Heritage, also represents a first in GM’s history as he is one of GM’s most notable, openly gay executives. He broke ground in 2011 when he announced to the world that he was Black and Gay in Corporate America. He did so at a time when being such wasn’t as readily accepted and supported as it is today.

We talked with Blake to learn more about how being Black and gay shaped his career.

Briefly describe your journey with GM.

GM has been incredibly supportive. When you have to go through the experience of coming out and telling the world about a part of you, that’s not obvious, it’s scary. Early on it was important to identify those who you could establish trust with. Over time is has become much easier as we shifted as a society and GM has firmly supported every step of the way.

You came out to the world in a Black Enterprise article published in 2011. How did that affect your career?

When that article came out, there were folks who called from around the company. There’s one person who was in manufacturing that said, “…because of the article and you putting a face to it, I will now bring in a picture of my wife. I have never even told anyone at GM that I’m lesbian. But because of seeing your picture in that magazine, you’re proving that it’s okay.” So, that made it all worth it. At GM we want everyone to be able to bring their whole selves to work and not have to waste time or energy worrying about hiding who they really are.

What was the determining factor for you coming out?

When I found out that there had been many executives asked to support the Black Enterprise article, and they said no, I said I have to do this – because if not me, then who? I never had any positive role models or anyone that looked like me that was accomplishing things. So, this was extremely important to be a visible positive role model.

How being Black and gay in corporate America shaped General Motors' Sabin Blake
Photo provided by GM Communications

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