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Diversity and Inclusion: An Industry Imperative

Diversity and inclusion is a top priority of Michigan’s automotive industry. At a 2020 MICHauto Summit panel moderated by “Autoline” host John McElroy, Margaret Baxter, executive director of the Center for Automotive Diversity, Inclusion and Advancement; Jatinder-Bir “Jay” Sandhu, CEO of NYX, LLC; and Kristen Tabar, group vice president of vehicle development and engineering at Toyota Motor North America Research and Development identified the best practices for implementing a stronger culture of diversity and inclusion.

The speakers’ overall sentiment on D&I was that effort is required at all levels of an organization, starting from the top and also including employees on the decision making.

“The most effective way to make this work is to have leadership buy-in at the top,” said Baxter.

Sandhu also stressed the importance of speaking to employees and including them on the process to better understand what they are looking for in terms of D&I.

“You can’t just force-feed it from the top—you have to have a dialogue and identify from the ground up where we can be more diverse and more inclusive,” he stated.

NYX, LLC understands young professionals want to work in diverse companies and has found success in embracing and accommodating differences. 75% of the company’s 42,000-person workforce is diverse and over 30 different languages are spoken in its Michigan plants.

Toyota works through a systemic effort to breakdown the barriers around D&I in the industry.

“Many people don’t know what D&I actually is,” said Baxter. “You have to create a safe space for people to have these difficult conversations and ask questions.”

The panelists also emphasized the business benefits tied to strong D&I practices.

“We really believe innovation comes from this diversity of thought and the inclusiveness of hearing everyone’s voice,” said Tabar.

Finally, the group agreed that a thriving culture of D&I is rooted in listening – both accepting different perspectives from outside of the organization and incorporating internal feedback for process improvement.

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