Deborah Augustine Elam
President & CEO
Photo: David M. Russell/Watershed Visuals
After a thirty year career with the multinational conglomerate, corporate pioneer Deborah Augustine Elam has retired from her dual role at General Electric as Chief Diversity Officer, as well as President of the GE Foundation.
From graduate intern to GE’s first-ever black female corporate officer, Deb dedicated her career to diversity, philanthropy, and inclusion. She oversaw efforts to embrace diversity in order to create an environment where GE employees are able to thrive and contribute to the company’s success in the global economy. Her experience spans across multiple organizations within the corporation.
An alumnus of Louisiana State University, Deb holds a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology. Her career catapulted after graduating from Southern University, where she earned a Master in Public Administration. She was quickly recruited by GE’s Human Resources Leadership Program where she undertook assignments at GE Global Exchange Services and GE Transportation. Upon successful completion of the training program, she progressed through larger HR roles within GE Consulting Services, GE Capital Mortgage Corporation, GE Capital Insurance Services, and GE Capital Markets Services. In June of 2000, Elam became Managing Director of Human Resources at GE Capital Commercial Finance.
Colleagues have cited Deb’s commitment to diversity, philanthropy, and inclusiveness as key factors to her success. In February of 2006, Deb rose to the top with a well-deserved promotion that made history. GE’s Board of Directors appointed her Chief Diversity Officer, the conglomerate’s first-ever black female corporate officer, making Deb one of the most senior women in the company.
It was apparent that Deb would continue to disrupt the status quo as she earned a lifetime of accolades, including but not limited to: one of the 25 Most Influential Women in Business; and one of the 50 Most Powerful Women in Philanthropy. She is also a recipient of the Women of Excellence Legacy Award by the National Association for Female Executives, and a recipient of the Women of Power Award by the National Urban League.
In 2013, Deb’s responsibilities within the organization significantly expanded as she was appointed President of GE Foundation, where she would go on to spearhead the transformation of communities and shape the diverse workforce of tomorrow by leveraging the power of GE.
For her steadfast contributions in diversity and philanthropy, Elam was awarded an honorary Doctor of Science from Clarkson University in 2016.
Deb holds membership in a number of critical organizations. She is a member of the Executive Leadership Council (ELC) – an organization of the top African Americans in Corporate America; The National Black MBA Association; Delta Sigma Sorority, Inc., and The Links, Inc. Additionally, Deb is on the Board of Directors at the LSU Foundation and The New Orleans Culinary & Hospitality Institute.
In June, Deb launched Corporate Playbook, a business consulting firm in which she serves as President and CEO. The firm coaches organizations to elevate diversity, inclusion, and philanthropy. Its specializations include executive development, strategic solutions, and the empowerment of women to shatter the glass ceiling.
Deborah Elam explains why she chose a black unicorn.