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CADIA Connects: Bringing the Majority Along

June 9, 2021

On Tuesday, June 8, the Center for Automotive Diversity, Inclusion, and Advancement (CADIA) hosted CADIA Connects. During this unique session, Cheryl Thompson, founder and chief executive officer of CADIA, brought together a panel of executives from across the automotive ecosystem to talk candidly about their DE&I journey and how to bring the majority along. MichAuto’s Executive Director Glenn Stevens Jr. joined Laura Ann Preston, global director of talent management for Magna Exteriors, John Major, regional vice president of Midwest Operations at Achates Power, and Andrew Schreck, co-founder of Comprehensive Carbon Impact, in sharing insights with more than 50 participants.

The automotive and mobility industry is making a concerted effort to be more inclusive, something that has been a long time in the making. While each company is at their own place in the journey towards diversity, equity, and inclusion, how do we make sure everyone is included and that the majority is buying in?

Key take-aways from the conversation included:

  • Be thoughtful about your messaging and set up each conversation properly.
  • Admit if you need help on your DE&I journey and start where you are.
  • Cultivate a leadership team that is empathetic.
  • Do your own research.
  • Recognize that DE&I is a journey and not a box to check.

It starts with being thoughtful about our messaging, Preston noted, and never trying to exclude someone in the process. Fear is one element that often holds people back from having the candid conversations that are needed to move DE&I actions forward. There are ways to set the conversation up right at the beginning to ask open questions. You can start with saying, “I’m not going to get this right, but I have a question and am genuinely curious.”

Stevens agreed that to develop a workplace that looks the way the world looks, we have to want to change. This is an inflection point for the automotive and mobility industry, and change is needed. Watching this happen in the industry is astounding, because traditionally the industry has stayed much the same.

“Our world is changing fast,” said Stevens. “If you don’t figure out how to take the upward trajectory on diversity, equity, and inclusion, then you will die. Our industry has the opportunity to grow by being more diverse.”

More than just changing thought processes, Major emphasized the importance of empathy as perhaps one of the most important leadership skills. Noted Major, when you look around a meeting and there is one person of color, take a hard look at what that is like. Really make a personal commitment and challenge yourself to understand what it feels like to be that person. It is about putting yourself aside and cultivating relationships beyond your sphere of comfort.

Added Schreck, there is also an important consideration for the psychological toll it takes on people who are asked questions about their unique cultures and ethnicities. He recommends doing some research on your own. With the vast number of resources available and content on social media, it can be easy to educate yourself on some of the challenges in the workplace to improve your own understanding.

In conclusion, Thompson reflected that this industry is really good at getting in, getting it done, and moving on.

“You can’t do this with diversity, equity, and inclusion. It’s not a destination. It’s a journey,” said Thompson.