DE&I Transformation: Insights from a CEO's Remarkable Rise

DE&I Transformation: Insights from a CEO's Remarkable Rise

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In this insightful podcast episode, Cheryl Thompson, CEO of the Center for Automotive Diversity, Inclusion, and Advancement (CADIA), joins host Jan Griffiths to discuss the critical topic of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) in the automotive industry. Cheryl shares her inspiring journey, from washing dishes in the basement of Ford Motor Company to becoming a CEO, highlighting the possibilities for personal growth and professional excellence.

The conversation also touches on Cheryl's role at American Axle & Manufacturing and her efforts to champion DE&I within the organization. Demystifying DE&I, Cheryl emphasizes that it's about creating workplaces where everyone feels valued, respected, and has equitable opportunities. She introduces the concept of the "fear zone," a barrier to meaningful DE&I progress, and addresses common pushbacks and resistance faced in DE&I initiatives.

Cheryl outlines the critical elements of an effective DE&I strategy, including leadership commitment, systemic change, and creating inclusive cultures. She also shares CADIA's mission to double the number of diverse leaders in the automotive industry by 2030 and highlights the tangible bottom-line impact that diversity and inclusion can have. The episode concludes with Cheryl offering valuable advice to leaders in the automotive industry: the importance of self-awareness and fostering an inclusive environment.

Themes discussed in this episode:

  • Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
  • Personal and professional growth
  • Crafting an Effective DE&I Strategy
  • Challenges and Pushbacks in DE&I
  • Balancing Psychological Safety and Accountability
  • Significance of self-awareness

Featured Guest: Cheryl Thompson

What she does: Cheryl Thompson is CEO and Founder of the Center for Automotive Diversity, Inclusion, and Advancement. (CADIA) Cheryl possesses a wealth of experience in the automotive sector, having held key roles at prominent companies such as Ford and American Axle.

On leadership: “I think that leaders, particularly leaders who have been around for a while, think that they know everything, they think they've got it all figured out. And nobody has it all figured out.”

Mentioned in this episode:

Episode Highlights:

[00:03:03] Cheryl's inspiring career journey: Cheryl's remarkable career trajectory, from washing dishes in the basement at Ford to becoming a CEO, illustrates the power of determination and perseverance.

[00:10:21] American Axle's DE&I initiatives: This podcast episode explores American Axle's commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I), shedding light on the organization's efforts to create a more inclusive and equitable work environment for all employees.

[00:13:16] Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I): The podcast delves into what DE&I truly means in the workplace and its importance for fostering inclusive cultures and diverse leadership.

[00:17:33] Balancing psychological safety and accountability: The discussion revolves around the challenge organizations face in maintaining a delicate balance between holding individuals accountable for their actions and fostering an atmosphere where employees feel psychologically safe to express their thoughts and ideas.

[00:22:05] Overcoming challenges and pushbacks in DE&I: Cheryl and Jan explore common pushbacks and hurdles organizations encounter on their DE&I journey. These include resistance to change, fear of backlash, and the importance of navigating these challenges with resilience.

[00:31:01] CADIA's role in DE&I: A spotlight on CADIA (Center for Automotive Diversity, Inclusion, and Advancement) and its mission to double the number of diverse leaders in the automotive industry by 2030.

[00:40:30] Bottom-line impact and benefits: The podcast discusses the positive impact that DE&I initiatives can have on a company's bottom line, from increased innovation to improved employee engagement.

[00:42:57] The fun stuff: In a lighthearted segment, Cheryl shares her favorite band and mobile app (LinkedIn), adding a personal touch to the conversation.

[00:47:49] The 21 traits of authentic leadership: Cheryl's favorite trait of authentic leadership is  "self-awareness." Cheryl's emphasis on self-awareness is a testament to her commitment to personal growth and unwavering dedication to making the automotive industry more diverse, equitable, and inclusive.

[00:48:06] Advice for auto industry leaders: Cheryl offers valuable advice to automotive leaders on the significance of self-awareness in fostering diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Top Quotes:

[00:35:38] Cheryl: "If you make those small, little moves about being more inclusive, getting to know each of your team members, what motivates them, what is going to help them show up at their best, you will start to see those benefits yourself."

[00:39:26] Cheryl: “People are our biggest assets. And that's how we get the work done. So I absolutely agree. We need to focus on the people thing.”

[00:48:27] Cheryl: "Recognize how you're making people feel. Recognize how you're treating people."

[00:48:57] Jan: “You have to be aware of who you are and where those knowledge gaps are and develop more of that growth mindset than fixed mindset.”

[00:49:13] Jan: “If we are going to transform this industry, and we are going to do it, it's not all about the product. It is about the people.”