In the United States this year, the need for social justice, diversity and inclusion has led to a national rally for change. So it stands to reason that companies are rethinking their approach to fostering a business environment that truly serves everyone. It is, after all, up to all of us to be the change we want to see.
Inequalities in society have always been present, but the social and racial tragedies amid the rise of COVID-19 have sparked a real national consciousness. The business community realized it had a responsibility to speak out against racism, bigotry and all forms of discrimination and an opportunity to encourage dialogue to bring understanding and build bridges.
That includes those of us at Toyota. Our fundamental principles, respect for people and continuous improvement, have guided us for a long time. We seek to reflect these values in our workplace, in the communities in which we operate, and as part of our ongoing commitment to diversity and inclusion. We believe diversity and inclusion is important to our corporate culture, employee engagement, and our future success as a mobility company.
Toyota is a global company, but we have more than 47,000 employees in North America, not to mention millions of customers. Naturally, there is a range of opinions on issues of social and racial justice. We welcome the full range of these viewpoints and believe it is important for us to facilitate a deep and constructive conversation where all voices are heard.
Because let’s be honest: while Toyota and many organizations have made great strides in becoming more diverse and inclusive, there is still a lot of work to be done to engage and support key communities and ensure that opportunities and equity exist for each of our employees.
Diversity isn’t just about ethics, it’s good business. Research shows that companies with effective corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs are more profitable.
In fact, companies with diverse management teams are…
—33% more likely to generate above-average profits;
—70% more likely to enter new markets; and…
— able to generate 19% more revenue through innovation than companies with below-average leadership diversity.
Companies must also recognize the essential role that the multicultural community plays in the success of their business. For example, the African American community accounts for over $1.3 trillion in consumer spending. How can we ignore a group of people who are so essential to the economy? And it doesn’t stop there: the Latinx Afro-Latino, Asian-American, Native American, LGBTQ+, disabled, and veteran Latinx communities remain underserved despite their great contribution to American business.
As Director of Diversity at Toyota Motor North America, it is both my passion and my mandate to help the multicultural community thrive. (And to those of you in this community, I say: we’re here for you, we’re on your side, and we’re committed to supporting you.) Indeed, companies looking to make meaningful progress in this area often seek my advice.
This is what I tell them.
First, recognize and understand that these issues are real and genuine. Ask yourself, “Am I really looking at this fairly?” Many people ignore social inequality because it seems out of their control or because they think unconscious biases in the workplace aren’t prevalent. Once you recognize the problem, you can start looking for ways to make changes.
At Toyota, for example, we have…
—conducted diversity training on unconscious bias for leaders and employees;
—guest speakers to discuss social and racial justice;
—held listening sessions with employees;
— created opportunities for employees to get involved; and…
— Established a Social Justice Action Committee and a Diversity and Inclusion Executive Committee to discuss issues and next steps.
Second, cultivate accountability and involvement at the management level. Diversity, equity and inclusion should be a top strategic priority and have tangible goals linked to the company’s mission and business strategy. At Toyota, that means maintaining the company’s leading market share for ethnic minorities and committing to adding more diverse dealerships each year, among other initiatives.
Thirdcommit to recruiting, growing, developing and promoting minority employees through mentorship programs, professional development and other initiatives that expand and enhance opportunities for minorities.
Fourth, embrace all communities beyond the walls of the company. This could mean supporting legislation that addresses social and racial injustices, investing financially in heavily affected communities, or funding initiatives focused on educating minority youth. At Toyota, we’ve built strong relationships with our business partner groups, dealers, political leaders and community partners because we know we can’t do this alone. We are confident that our combined efforts will make a difference.
It is clear that as a nation we cannot move forward if we leave others behind. As business leaders, we have a unique opportunity and responsibility to create a more equitable world where we all thrive. We must all aim to continually improve our communities by addressing the inequalities that surround us.
Sandra Phillips Rogers is General Counsel, General Counsel and Director of Diversity at Toyota Motor North America.