There are no Black leaders among the Canadian automotive industry’s 17 CEOs and presidents. Beyond that, no statistics are available to measure Black representation in the Canadian auto industry, said Jennifer Okoeguale, a public relations consultant at Toyota Canada and a founding member of Accelerate Auto.
“We’ve found that most organizations and industries lack this crucial information…largely due to the fact that most employees opt out of self-identifying their diversity, usually out of fear of discrimination or being singled out,” Okoeguale said. “[This] is one of the areas we are looking to work on collaboratively with the industry to bring positive change.”
Accelerate Auto is beginning its mandate by initiating a consultation period with industry stakeholders to address three issues: poor representation by Black people in the Canadian auto industry, the financial barriers that prevent Black youth from receiving an education that could propel them into automotive careers, and increasing awareness of and education around anti-Black systemic racism.
To increase Black representation, the group aims to become a resource for Canadian auto companies seeking to examine their hiring practices, create a more inclusive recruitment process, eliminate unconscious bias from candidate screening and engage in strategic planning around diversity and inclusion. A mentorship network is also being established through the Accelerate Auto LinkedIn page.
This process begins with “looking to see if there is actually Black talent across the organization and asking the question whether our organizations truly reflect the customers we’re serving,” said Edith Pencil, head of employee services at Performance Auto Group, which has 30 dealerships located in Southern Ontario.
OPPORTUNITY CREATES CAREERS
To make education more accessible for Black young people, Accelerate Auto plans to establish scholarships and internship opportunities, such as co-op placements at dealerships for high school students.
A part-time job placement at a dealership during high school introduced Pencil to the auto industry — an opportunity that highlights the career possibilities for Black youth, she said.
Accelerate Auto also plans to organize speaking engagements designed to raise awareness of anti-Black systemic racism and ultimately guide company policies directed toward increasing diversity, equity and inclusion.
“I’d love there to be greater understanding within Canadian organizations in the automotive space around anti-Black systemic racism [with] internal policies and changes to their structures that really do impact their Black employees,” said Toyota’s Okoeguale. “We absolutely do need to have more intentional strategies that are tied to more measurable outcomes.”
With the industry on the verge of revolutionary change, it is critical to ensure that diverse voices are playing a role in such advancements as electric and self-driving vehicles, she said.
“Decisions are being made today that are going to be impacting generations to come,” Okoeguale said. “I really want to see more Black people in leadership positions so that we can also have an impact on the decisions that are being made within the industry.”