Deborah Elam

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Manager, Diversity and Inclusive Leadership, General Electric Co., Fairfield, Conn.

Deborah Elam’s success story started some 17 years ago when she joined General Electric Co. as a human resources intern. At that time, Elam had just completed a bachelor’s degree program in sociology at Louisiana State University. While at G.E. she obtained a master’s in public administration at Southern University, which has helped her as she worked her way up the company ladder. Now manager of diversity and inclusive leadership, she steers efforts to globally develop and execute G.E.’s strategies to promote internal diversity, flexibility and inclusion, ensuring that the programs and practices that grow out of those policies are contemporary. Elam is also responsible for G.E.’s annual companywide Opinion Survey.

Elam integrates into her responsibilities at G.E. numerous speaking engagements at events such as the Wharton Women in Business and Women in Leadership conferences as well as at organizations such as the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition. She is a member of several prestigious Black organizations, including the National Black MBA Association, Jack and Jill of America and the National Council of Negro Women. She is also a member of the National Committee of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., and serves as vice president of the Fairfield County chapter of The Links Inc.

Yet, Elam considers her most important job to be raising two daughters with her husband. “My greatest accomplishment and greatest continual challenge is as a mom. If I botch up raising them, none of the rest of this really matters,” she says of her professional and community activities. To this end, she tries to be as supportive of her daughters’ decisions as her own mother was of hers, she says.

Elam is dedicated to community service, particularly when it involves issues affecting young women. Small wonder, then, that if time and money weren’t obstacles, she would “take 25 young women of color, probably college age, on a voyage around the world for a month and give them exposure and experiences that otherwise would not be available
to them.”

Until that dream comes true, being an in influential force in corporate America and in her community will have to do.

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