All you need to do is google business case for diversity, and you will find multiple studies that talk about the benefits of diversity on teams, in leadership, and on boards. More specifically, companies with women and minorities in decision making roles experience better financial performance, higher rates of return on investment, and higher employee retention rates when compared to companies that do not.
So why is it that in the automotive industry we have a paltry handful of women and minorities in the top leadership roles in this $400+ billion dollar industry, and equally as appalling numbers within management, middle management and entry level employees? We hear the reasons all the time, such as, “We can’t find ‘em to hire ‘em,” or “These are hard jobs, women don’t want them,” or “We are color/race blind and we just hire the best person for the job.”
If our industry wants to thrive, or even survive, then it has got to change. Although largely unpublished, the industry experiences higher attrition rates for women and minorities than for white, male counterparts. Anecdotally, we know what the underlying issues are – unwelcoming and non-inclusive corporate cultures, inflexible work environments, lack of advancement opportunities, and a lack of representation in upper levels.
I have more than 30 years of experience in the automotive industry starting off as a tool and die apprentice, moving into engineering, and leading a team of 500 people in manufacturing operations. What I know for sure from my experience is:
I call on industry leaders and CEOs to take action now. Diversity, Equity and Inclusion is both an idea and ideal that starts with the corporate culture, but it is also supported by a system – not unlike ISO 14001 or IATF 16949 – that details policies, practices and procedures that ensures a level playing field for everyone. There is a way to do this. Will it take time? Yes. Will it be worth it? Well, take a look around. If we don’t want to die a slow death by limiting the talent we can attract and retain to drive innovation in this industry, then it’s not just a should-do. It’s an imperative.