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Celebrating Diverse Voices Town Hall with GS3 Chief Executive Officer Lisa Lunsford: Diversity and Equity Must Be ‘intentional’

 

The third installment of the Chamber’s Celebrating Diverse Voices Town Hall series delved into the perspective of Lisa Lunsford, chief executive officer and co-founder of the Michigan-based Global Strategic Supply Solutions (GS3). Lunsford, an automotive industry veteran, woman of color, and leader of a Tier 1 automotive supplier shared advice for how companies and organizations can seek to establish a clear identity, shed bias, and develop inclusive practices that meaningfully support diversity.  

Lunsford participated in the one-on-one discussion with Glenn Stevens, Jr., vice president of automotive and mobility initiatives for the Chamber, and executive director for MICHauto. 

A Long Way to Go 

Notably, Lunsford was the second African American woman to be hired as an engineer into Ford Motor Company’s plastics division in the late 1980s.  

While reflecting on how the previous year’s political and societal events has encouraged companies and organizations to heighten their awareness of diversity, racial justice, and equity, Lunsford highlighted the automotive industry’s overall diversity. The CEO shared statistics from Deloitte and Automotive News’ ‘100 Leading Women in U.S. Automotive” study.  

“47% of women make up the national labor force, but only 24% of us actually work in automotive manufacturing. And then another 18% in automotive retail,” said Lunsford. “As of today, 39% of us actually believe things are changing. But that’s actually down from 2015 when it was more like 64%.” 

Out of the 16,000 auto dealers in the U.S., 8% are owned by women, only 1% are owned by women of color, and 3% have Black owners 

“I’ve seen great strides. However, I do believe that we have a long way to go,” said Lunsford. “So, I would say in a nutshell, we still have a lot of work to do.” 

Must Go Beyond the CEO’s Tenure 

Stevens asked Lunsford to share her advice for leaders looking to move beyond biases and start meaningful conversations about diversity, inclusion, and equity in their companies. 

Lunsford said leaders and their organizations must first “perform a self-check” by becoming aware of their words and actions behind-the-scenes. 

“They have to think about the conversations that they’re having at the C-Level in which they are talking about a leader or an employee, or whatever is happening at their organization,” explained Lunsford. “And they have to start asking themselves, if this conversation is recorded and its leaked, what will people listening think of our company values.” 

Lunsford also advised organizations to take stock of their commitment to diversity and equity by creating “intentional” efforts and focusing on “learning and listening.”  

“My goal as a CEO is to meet people where they are for the dialogue to begin,” said Lunsford before also noting that conversations on diversity and inclusion “must go beyond the CEO’s tenure.”

CEO Coalition for Change 

Lunsford is the chairperson for the CEO Coalition of Change, an initiative spearheaded by MICHauto and the Center for Automotive Diversity, Inclusion, and Advancement (CADIA). 

“We decided to put our two missions together, and make sure that we were working together to measure and move the needle with regards to the number of diverse leaders involved in the automotive industry,” explained Stevens, while also mentioning Lunsford’s commitment to speaking with other CEOs about their equity work 

Lunsford said the conversations are meant to create sustainable practices and policies that support closing equity gaps through opportunities provided in the automotive industry. 

“The thing is, we are trying to form a talent pipeline,” said Lunsford. “And again, creating that positive cycle of economic development, robust economy, and a more competitive America. 

The GS3 executive also noted that diversity must be bolstered by a company’s solid infrastructure, particularly its willingness to provide new recruits with a network that supports their success.