Gerald Johnson, executive vice president of global manufacturing at General Motors Co. in Detroit, whose leadership was key to the company’s successful COVID-19 response and ongoing diversity and inclusion initiatives, has been recognized by the BEYA STEM 2021 Conference with its top honor of Black engineer of the year.
The conference, an annual event promoting diversity and networking opportunities for thousands of professionals, educators, and students took place virtually earlier this month.
“For 35 years, the BEYA STEM conference mission has been focused on opening doors of opportunity for future STEM professionals,” says Tyrone Taborn, chairman of the event and CEO of Career Communications Group, publisher of the U.S. Black Engineer and Information Technology magazine. “A big part of that is acknowledging dynamic leaders like Johnson who show up and deliver in their positions, while continuing to pave a path toward a better future in STEM-related careers for Blacks and minority talent.”
Johnson is responsible for quality and safety performance for 103,000 employees, representing more than 129 manufacturing on five continents in 16 countries. When production was temporarily suspended at the beginning of the pandemic, Johnson and his team worked across the company to quickly and effectively shift manufacturing and engineering resources to ventilators and mask production for frontline health workers. Johnson is credited with spearheading the company’s safety protocols and return-to-work strategies that made it possible to safely reopen GM plants and other operations.
“I am incredibly humbled to be named among the distinguished list of Black engineers of the year recipients,” says Johnson. “When I began my career, I didn’t set out to change the world. However, GM has afforded me amazing opportunities to lead innovation for our industry that is lifesaving and life-changing.”
Johnson began his GM career four decades ago as a co-op student at Kettering University. He serves as an inaugural member of GM’s Inclusion Advisory board, which has a goal of improving diversity and inclusion within the company.
At the age of 24, Johnson became the youngest superintendent in the history of GM’s Fisher Body Stamping Plant. He was also the first African American to hold the plant manager position at Mansfield Plant Stamping Operations in 2002 and GM Europe’s first African American executive director of manufacturing in 2006.