Automakers in the U.S. set a new standard for ethnic diversity and inclusion in 2021 with General Motors and Toyota leading the way.
This new benchmark for diversity within the U.S. auto industry, comes with some level of caution, according to the Rainbow PUSH/Citizenship Education Fund (CEF) Automotive Project’s annual Automotive Diversity Scorecard.
The scorecard, which was developed in 2012 to provide a snapshot of each manufacturer’s success at building and sustaining ethnic diversity and inclusion, with a primary focus on people of color. The six areas under consideration are employment, advertising, marketing, procurement, dealers and philanthropy.
The automakers earn red, yellow or green grades, depending upon how well each performed in the six categories above. A red grade is essentially a failure, meaning an automaker’s diversity “initiatives and investments were non-existent, not disclosed, or did not provide enough relevant information for scoring ….”
For the first time during the decade the scorecard’s been issued, no automakers received a red grade.
“We have seen many automakers take big steps forward with their diversity programs as they have come to truly see the value of diversity and inclusion programs,” said Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, founder and president of Rainbow PUSH Coalition.
Change is slow, but in process
The scorecard is based on a self-evaluation by automobile manufacturers’ leadership teams to rate their companies’ diversity efforts in a variety of categories. The survey reflects the most visible indicators of an OEM’s commitment to diversity.
In addition to red, an automaker can received a yellow grade, which indicates some evidence of ethnic diversity is visible. Green indicates that a given company is demonstrating best practices for ethnic diversity, comprising stated goals, initiatives, and dollar investments, together with accountability and growth. Again, each company gets graded in the six categories.
GM and Toyota both received green grades in five areas and a single yellow grade in the sixth. GM earned its yellow grade in employment efforts, while Toyota’s was in the dealer network. However, GM and Toyota scored the highest among the 12 automakers surveyed this year.
BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Volkswagen scored the lowest, with yellow grades across the board. Between the high and low marks, Ford, Stellantis, Honda, Nissan, Hyundai, Subaru and Kia earned between four and one green grades.
“We cannot afford to be complacent — our work is far from being done,” Jackson said. “The automotive industry and the communities it serves would benefit from having more Blacks in the C-suites and as owners of dealerships. Our advertising agencies need larger budgets and, of course, we need to make sure minorities play a meaningful role in the emerging electric vehicle supply chain.”
GM improves its score
The Detroit-based auto company has not always been viewed so highly when it comes to its diversity efforts.
After a 2020 statement in the wake of the George Floyd murder, GM CEO Mary Barra took some heat from Black business leaders, including music and fashion icon Sean “Diddy” Combs and media mogul Byron Allen, regarding what they perceived as GM’s state of diversity, particularly in marketing and advertising.
The company responded by meeting with Black-owned media outlets and pledging to increase ad spending by 400 percent. GM later detailed its plans for increased diversity in its media spending.
“This action plan will transform our engagement model with diverse media in a sustainable way,” said Deborah Wahl, GM global chief marketing officer, in a statement issued in April 2021. “Over the course of several weeks, we met with many diverse-owned media organizations. We are grateful for the transparency and spirit of collaboration, which helped us frame this inclusive approach.”
GM’s follow-through efforts throughout 2021 and 2022 seem to have borne fruit in the current evaluation, and the company is pleased with its results.
“We are proud to see our continuous progress around diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) reflected in the latest scorecard for the Rainbow PUSH coalition of automotive diversity,” said Telva McGruder, chief diversity, equity and inclusion Officer at GM.
“We recognize that we are in the heart of our journey and continue to drive robust DEI connection through our business actions. GM’s commitment to diverse-owned businesses and communities at large remains central to our overall strategy and ongoing investments.”
The annual scorecard provides the Rainbow PUSH/CEF Automotive Project with an aggregate report summary to serve as a resource for consultation on industry best practices. Each OEM receives a confidential survey that addresses six diversity measurements and upon completion returns it to Rainbow PUSH/CEF for evaluation.
“We are pleased with the responses we received from many of the participating automakers. These are the best scores we’ve seen since the inception of the Diversity Scorecard,” said John A. Graves, chairman of the Global Automotive Summit. “Some companies that initially received a red grade submitted a correction plan to address diversity deficiencies prior to the next Scorecard. I am confident they will meet their goals.”