Laura Reyes realized the value of diversity in company culture 20 years ago when she started her career in the human relations department at General Electric (GE). She is now executive of diversity and engagement for GE Healthcare and is responsible for developing its diversity strategy. She develops this strategy by partnering with human resources, business leaders, and affinity groups to implement programs that support growth in employee diversity recruiting, retention, development, and promotions. Reyes knows GE, as a global force, invests in diversity and new perspectives.
A great jumping-off point for that goal has been the Hispanic Forum, GE’s Latino affinity group created in 1996. The group currently has more than 3,100 members globally. According to Reyes, the formation of the group has greatly impacted GE’s business.
“If you’re looking for the best talent, you have to understand that it comes in different packages,” Reyes explains. “If you want to benefit the business, you have to maximize your talent, and that means being inclusive of different perspectives and backgrounds. Having an inclusive approach has served GE well.”
For GE, the ultimate goal of the Hispanic Forum is to foster an inclusive environment where Hispanics can thrive, impact GE’s business, and make a difference in the community. The community component is especially key for GE’s future growth. GE is particularly interested in promoting science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) programs for students of all ages. Over the past 30 years, the GE Foundation has donated more than $2 million to the Hispanic Scholarship Fund. In addition, the Hispanic Forum has awarded more than $235,000 in employee-funded scholarships since 2011 to students who plan to major in STEM fields.
GE employees who join the Hispanic Forum benefit from the Unidos Mentoring Program, which offers personal and professional development through formal training, networking, and other community engagement programs. Hispanic Forum was recognized as the best employee resource group by the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in 2011. Reyes explains that one of the many reasons the group is recognized for its efforts is because support comes from the highest levels, including the president & CEO of the Latin America division, Reinaldo Garcia, and GE Power & Water president and CEO Steve Bolze.
“Those at the highest levels of GE have a true understanding of the importance of diversity in the workforce,” Reyes says. “You have to have a very strong foundation to build your framework on and that’s what we have built at GE. The Hispanic Forum is an incredible group of highly talented and professional individuals who are passionate about making a difference in their communities.”
On a personal level, the importance of having Hispanic role models isn’t lost on Reyes. “It’s energizing to know you’re not the exception,” Reyes says. “We’ve all had someone be a positive representation to us, we’ve all had someone extend their hand, and in many ways, the Hispanic Forum allows our members to do the same for others. I can’t think of anything more powerful.”
To round out our special issue on Hispanic employee resource groups, we present our lineup of most-valuable Latino ERGs at some of the nations largest companies—including highlights on our “Top 5,” selected by guest editor, Dr. Robert Rodriguez. View the ERG Roster here.