starts at the top
Employee resource groups are key to continuing
cultural and gender inclusion. Robust programs are designed to yield diverse leaders at all levels
Diversity doesn’t stop with recruiting at Chrysler. Finding the right candidate is just the first step in a cycle that keeps diverse talent flowing throughout the company.
“Ethnic minorities and women are represented at all levels of our organization,” says Lisa J. Wicker, director of global diversity at Chrysler. “In fact, the company recently named its first female officer, and senior VP/corporate controller and auditor Kim Harris Jones is the company’s second African American officer as well as its highest-ranking African American female.”
Wicker notes that twenty-five percent of employees at the VP level and above are women and ethnic minorities. She attributes this level of diversity to dedication from the top. “Our leadership understands that diversity drives innovation and competitive advantage, and they’ve made diversity a strategic imperative,” she says.
Chrysler has a long history of commitment to diversity; its African American employee resource group (ERG) has been in business more than fifteen years, Wicker notes.
ERGs, a staple in many diversity-embracing businesses, are a key element of Chrysler’s diversity initiatives. The company was one of the first in the auto industry to recognize the value of these networks to core business needs, Wicker says.
Today Chrysler boasts five other ERGs: for women, Asians and Pacific Islanders, Native Americans, Hispanics and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees. Each group is sponsored by a VP or senior exec from the company’s global diversity council; Chrysler’s chair is executive advisor to the council.
Monthly ERG meetings bring members together to share information and plan events. All employees are encouraged to participate in workshops and seminars. Chair and CEO Bob Nardelli and Nancy Rae, EVP of HR and communications, attended a recent two-day African American leadership forum.
The leaders of each ERG meet annually with the council to contribute ideas for “sustainable performance and a culture of respect and inclusion,” Wicker says. “These events foster open communications and engagement of the ERG members with senior management.”
Both business and technical skills are very important to the auto industry, Wicker says, noting that ERG members also help Chrysler with recruitment. Members attend professional diversity conferences and participate in campus career fairs. Wicker views ERG members as company ambassadors: “They understand the organization and our needs and can share Chrysler’s passion with others.”
Wicker is also responsible for Chrysler’s work/life effectiveness program. Job sharing is an option for some positions. The company has created resources like reflection rooms and lactation rooms, and maintains onsite shops for personal needs like a barber, a nail and hair salon, and movie rentals.
Chrysler has been recognized with a number of national diversity awards. 2008 marked the fourth consecutive year the company was named a “best place to work” by the Human Rights Campaign, one of the largest GLBT rights organizations in the U.S. And Chrysler made the 2008 Working Mother list of 100 best companies, the only automotive company named to the list for the year.