Delta took flight with the third episode of Gaining Altitude on Friday. Mary Barra, the Chair and CEO of General Motors, joined Delta CEO Ed Bastian for a conversation on leadership worth navigating.
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Delta took flight with the third episode of Gaining Altitude on Friday. Mary Barra, the Chair and CEO of General Motors, joined Delta CEO Ed Bastian for a conversation on leadership worth navigating.

Bastian and Barra discussed a range of topics from all-electric ambitions and a more sustainable future, inclusion and building up young women in STEM, to personal reflections on leadership during challenges.

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“Under Mary’s leadership, GM has advanced a vision of a world with zero crashes, to save lives; zero emissions, so future generations can inherit a healthier planet; and zero congestion, so customers get back a precious commodity – time,” Bastian said at the outset of the conversation.

It may come as no surprise that sustainability and protecting the environment are issues at the forefront of both CEOs' minds. “As we looked at how our industry was changing, we saw a real opportunity,” Barra said. “Whether it's safety or emissions or making everyone more efficient, we want to do it.”

Delta pledged to be carbon neutral from March 2020 onward. This year, GM reported that the company will exclusively offer electric vehicles by 2035. GM also committed to using 100% renewable energy to power U.S. facilities by 2030 and global facilities by 2035. “We know vehicle transmissions are a significant contributor to carbon emissions. So, what is it going to take?” Barra reflected on the challenge that her company faced.

Equally conscious about the environment inside her company, the conversation highlighted Barra’s efforts to build the most inclusive company globally. Several actions stand out, including her passion for supporting and building up young people, particularly young women in Detroit public schools.

“Education is one of GM’s core giving priorities. Education is the great equalizer. It enables you to achieve almost anything,” Barra said. “I’m a big believer if everyone has access to a great education, they can be their best self. We’ve worked hard with the city of Detroit – but we have more work to do. There isn’t a single industry that isn’t impacted by technology. Too often, we find girls in middle school back away from math and science. We’re encouraging young women and girls to stay with STEM.”

Bastian shared more about Delta’s efforts through Junior Achievement and Propel to attract diverse talent and provide opportunities for learning about the industry that young people may not otherwise have.

Representatives from Delta's Propel pilot program.
Southern Illinois University Carbondale (SIU) and Southeastern Oklahoma State University (Southern) have joined ​Delta's Propel Pilot Career Path Program this year. Applications are open through Sept. 17.

Above all else, Barra wants to know that everyone feels they can come to work at GM and be their best selves. She left the audience with some simple yet profound leadership advice.

“Be conscious of how you make the other person feel. Assume the goodness of others. Did we show that person they are important?”

About Gaining Altitude

Gaining Altitude is a new series from Delta that tackles conversations worth navigating, connecting people while building understanding across the globe. CEO Ed Bastian hosts one-on-one live conversations with insightful leaders about topics that matter.

From transformational leadership to employee-first culture and the importance of knowing your personal values, the first three episodes have featured meaningful life lessons with General Motors CEO Mary Barra, Union Square Hospitality Group CEO and Shake Shack Founder Danny Meyer, and Walker and Company Brands CEO Tristan Walker.

Catch the next episode with Jopwell CEO and co-founder Porter Braswell at 1p.m. ET Oct. 27. Discover all the episodes and watch live at
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