If you talk to General Motors executive Jocelyn Allen for any length of time, you quickly get the sense that she has a special appreciation for the carmaker and the Detroit auto industry.And it’s easy to understand why.
Allen, a Detroit native and graduate of the city’s Benedictine High School, credits the Detroit auto industry with a lot of her success as an African American and female on both a professional and personal level.
“I would not be who I am today had it not been for the automotive industry,” she said. “It has allowed me to provide for my family. But more importantly, I would not have been able to do the work I’ve done for my community had it not been for General Motors.”
Allen, who was recently named director of cross-brand communications for GM in October, began her career working as a GM internal communications manager responsible for the selection and training of internal communications professionals in North America after working in broadcast media as a production assistant.
In that role, Allen was responsible for developing and implementing the strategic communication of GM’s philanthropic efforts and community relations to the media and developed a strong sense of community outreach working with organizations such as the NAACP, the Coalition on Temporary Shelter (COTS) and the Rosa Parks Foundation.
Allen’s interest in community outreach led her to start her own organization in 2002, called Divas4Life. The not-for-profit program is dedicated to fostering determined, inspired, victorious and adventurous (DIVA) young women, ages 8-18, through the instruction of life-sustaining skills.
“I would not be contributing to these young girls’ lives if it were not for GM,” said Allen, a single mother with a son now attending college.
As director of cross-brand communications, Allen is responsible for the strategic execution of all external communications involving GM’s monthly sales reporting, Customer Care and Aftersales, the Dealer network, GM Fleet and Commercial, and OnStar.
Allen also has lead coordination responsibility for diversity communication outreach across Chevrolet, Cadillac, Buick and GMC brands.
Prior to this position, Allen was vice president of public affairs and corporate communications for OnStar, where she recently led the successful PR campaign to relaunch the brand.
Prior to her OnStar assignment, Allen was manager of broadcast media relations for General Motors. In this role, she was responsible for handling all broadcast requests (television, radio, Internet) regarding executive interviews, product exposure and corporate initiatives.
Allen is a member of the International Association of Business Communications (IABC), the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ), the Directors Guild of America (DGA) and serves as a board member for the Detroit chapter of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA).
Allen, who received a bachelor of arts degree from the University of Notre Dame and a Master’s degree in Organizational Communications and Public Relations from Wayne State University, is the recipient of several professional and community awards, including the Multicultural Humanitarian Award from the Alan Miller Foundation and the National Diversity Opportunity Council (2004), the inaugural Michigan Chronicle Women of Excellence Award (2008), the Urban Wheel Awards Minority Executive of the Year (2009), and Alternatives for Girls 2010 Corporate Role Model Award.
Allen credits a lot of her achievements to the success of other African American women in the auto industry like Vivian Pickard, president of the GM Foundation, and Barbara Whittaker, former executive director, service parts, global purchasing at GM; and Monica Emerson, former director of Global Diversity at Chrysler.
“I look at African American women like Vivian Pickard, Barbara Whittaker and Monica Emerson who have played very important roles in the automotive industry, as examples of what can be done by women. They are people who I can look at as an inspiration of that they have achieved and how they’ve given back to the community.”
Added Allen, “I’ve also been fortunate to have a relationship with other women in the field such as Mary Barra, vice president of Global Human resources at GM, who has helped mentor me.”
Like so many others, Allen’s family roots are tied to those who migrated from the South to Detroit looking for better opportunities offered in the auto industry.
“My grandmother came here back in the early ’40s like many others because of the work being offered in the automotive industry,” Allen explained. “She and her husband worked at the Pontiac plant in Detroit and then she sent for the rest of her family.”
Despite some of the drastic changes in the Detroit automobile industry over recent years, Allen remains optimistic about the auto industry continuing to offer new opportunities to African Americans, women and other minorities.
“There are still opportunities, they are just a lot different than they’ve been over the past couple of decades,” said Allen. “I know GM is actively looking for minorities in fields like engineering and information technology. The opportunities are there; it’s just different than what we’ve experienced in the past.”