Leading Diversity: A Discussion on CADIA's DE&I Industry Study

Leading Diversity: A Discussion on CADIA's DE&I Industry Study

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In this episode, Jan Griffiths is joined by Cheryl Thompson, the CEO of CADIA (Center for Automotive Diversity, Inclusion & Advancement), to discuss "Driving Diversity: Unlocking the Power of Diverse Workforces for the Future of the Transportation Industry," a Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DE&I) industry study that CADIA conducted in 2023.

Cheryl highlights progress and areas that need improvement, citing statistics on women's representation in the transportation industry and the disparities in racial and ethnic representation, especially at senior executive levels.

They explore the misconception of hiring "the best person for the job" as an excuse for the lack of diversity and the importance of providing equal opportunities for all candidates. Cheryl highlights the need for transparency in promoting diversity while discussing the challenges of collecting demographic data. Additionally, she underscores the importance of attracting early talent by dispelling outdated industry perceptions.

Jan and Cheryl also discuss the importance of connecting with the workforce to create a sense of belonging and inclusivity. They highlight the importance of retention strategies, including stay interviews, especially in a multi-generational workforce. They discuss innovative approaches like reverse mentorship and shadow boards to bridge the generational gap and leverage diverse perspectives for organizational growth and success.

Lastly, they talk about the key findings and best practices of CADIA’s 2023 Industry Study. Cheryl emphasizes the significance of collecting data, incorporating DEI into core business goals, and mentoring and sponsorship initiatives for career advancement.

Jan stresses the significance of investing time and effort in promoting diversity and inclusion, as emphasized in the study. She encourages listeners to explore the study for the lessons leaders can learn.

Themes discussed in this episode:

  • The significance of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) in the automotive industry 
  • The need for cultural transformation in the auto industry
  • The importance of cultural, racial, and generational diversity
  • Challenges in achieving representation for women and minorities, particularly in leadership roles
  • Importance of providing equal opportunities for all candidates
  • The urgency of dispelling industry stereotypes to attract diverse talent
  • Challenges in collecting accurate demographic data
  • Debunking the notion of hiring based solely on merit
  • Integrating DEI into core business goals and practices

Featured: Cheryl Thompson 

What she does: In her role as the founder and CEO of the Center for Automotive Diversity, Inclusion & Advancement (CADIA), Cheryl Thompson champions diversity, equity, and inclusion within the automotive industry. With over 30 years of experience in various leadership roles at Ford Motor Company and American Axle, Cheryl brings expertise in manufacturing, operations, and global leadership to her work. 

On leadership: “DE&I is all about good leadership, taking care of our people, making sure they have what they need to contribute to their highest potential and to really thrive at work.”

Mentioned in this episode:

Episode Highlights:

[00:01:33] The Study:  Jan sets the stage for a discussion on driving change in the automotive industry with Cheryl, focusing on the progress and challenges highlighted in her recent study "Driving Diversity."

[00:04:47] "The Best Person for the Job": Jan challenges excuses for lack of diversity. Cheryl discusses the study's motivation and the data collection challenges; they highlight transparency and leadership alignment with DE&I efforts.

[00:09:51] Plant & Manufacturing: Cheryl discusses the study's findings on manufacturing representation and the need for talent development pathways, emphasizing the importance of dispelling industry stereotypes to attract diverse early talent.

[00:12:56] Sense of Connection: A discussion on the importance of storytelling to foster community and inclusivity; Cheryl reflects on the sense of connection and camaraderie experienced in manufacturing roles.

[00:15:34] Promotion & Attrition: Cheryl discusses promotion and attrition rates. Jan promotes the value of stay interviews in understanding retention factors despite industry hesitation.

[00:18:25] New Generation: Cheryl notes the rise of millennial and Gen Z leaders, highlighting the need for companies to understand their values for better retention. Jan suggests embracing generational diversity through initiatives like reverse mentorship and shadow boards.

[00:23:44] Best Practices: Cheryl identifies key best practices, including comprehensive data collection, prioritizing DEI as a business objective, analyzing talent attraction, and emphasizing deliberate focus and time investment on DE&I. 

Top Quotes:

[00:06:44] Cheryl: “You should always pick the best person for the job. However, everyone needs to have a chance to compete. We need to open up that field of play so that we're giving women and ethnic and racial minorities, even people with disability, veteran status, all of that beautiful diversity. We need to be able to make sure everyone's getting their fair shot at the game.”

[00:20:10] Cheryl: “Bringing in people from different generations and discussing differences, strengths, and opportunities. And I think that's really cool. I love learning from millennials and Gen Zs, and can't wait to learn from the Alpha generation. It keeps me young, but also it helps me stay relevant. And if I were a leader inside of a plant right now, I would definitely want to do that to stay relevant and to evolve and learn as an individual.”

[00:22:12] Cheryl: “I think that sometimes there's too much ego, and it gets in the way. Sometimes, mentors don't realize that there is an opportunity for them to learn. It's not all about them. It is about the other person and what can be learned from that.”

Mentioned in this episode:

This episode is sponsored by Lockton, click here to learn more