The Business Case for Diversity
James J. Padilla
Group Vice President, Ford North America
Ford Motor Company
I’ve been invited to discuss the business case for diversity—why diversity is as critical to your business strategy as the products you make or the services you provide—and to discuss the benefits for companies that not only seek but celebrate diversity in their offices and plants, as well as in the ideas that shape their companies and their products.
It’s an easy case for me to argue. As a group vice president at Ford and a member of Ford’s Executive Council on Diversity and Worklife, I am invested in the value of creating a diverse culture within our company. As the grandson of immigrants, I also have a deep personal interest in the issues of diversity, inclusion, and justice. I’d like to begin by talking briefly about our diversity journey at Ford—where we’ve been and where we’re going as we near our 100th anniversary as a company. Like most leading companies, we view the twin concepts of diversity and inclusion as critical to our future success. Many people do not realize, however, just how important these concepts have been to our past.
Nearly a century ago, our founder, Henry Ford, was among the first to cultivate a workforce from all of the communities the company served. He opened his plants, offices, trade schools, and supervisory ranks to minorities decades before other manufacturers. His grandson, Henry Ford II, built upon this foundation. He championed providing access and opportunities for all people, inside and outside the
company. The Ford family’s commitment to social responsibility continues today with our current chairman Bill Ford, Henry Ford’s great grandson. I’m proud to say that Ford now has the largest number of minority dealers in the country, with more African-American dealers than all other automakers combined. We purchase more goods and services from minority suppliers in the United States than any other corporation in the world. In recent years, we have strengthened our support of minority organizations in the communities we serve. We have expanded charitable donations in the areas of education, health and welfare, and arts and humanities with a strong emphasis on programs that promote diversity. We have provided scholarships, internships, and financial support to colleges and universities. And we have worked closely with community leaders to find new ways to make a difference.
We clearly are headed in the right direction. But more important, we’ve expanded our notion of what diversity means in a global corporation today. At Ford, our definition of diversity goes far beyond what we look like or where we are from. It includes all of the traits that make us unique individuals. It also includes the way each of us works, as well as how we choose to blend our professional and personal lives. As company leaders, we are challenged daily to be flexible and to recognize that there are as many ways to do a job as there are people in the world. True diversity, I believe, celebrates the rich qualities and experiences employees bring to their jobs each day and considers those qualities to be among the company’s greatest assets. This, of course, is a matter of fairness and justice, but it is also good business. We are a global organization with employees and customers around the world.
Therefore, we must understand our business from our customers’ perspectives—and those perspective are becoming increasingly diverse.
To fully appreciate these diverse perspectives and to ensure that we have the best talent available to do so, we believe it is critical that we create a culture of inclusion at Ford. In this culture, every employee is welcomed, supported, respected, and encouraged to make a contribution and to be successful. We want diversity to be in the bloodstream of our company. That is a promise we have made to every member of our global family.
Diversity is about much...
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