By Tonit Calaway
As Executive Vice President, Chief Legal Officer and Secretary at BorgWarner Inc., I am honored to be recognized as one of the Most Influential Black Executives in Corporate America by Savoy and would like to thank my company for the opportunities it offers through its phenomenal culture of inclusion and forward thinking. During my more than three years with the company, I have had the pleasure of being a part of a leadership team that realizes the importance of fostering professional growth, promoting sustainability and embracing diversity and inclusion.
There has been a lot of conversation about diversity and inclusion. In fact, this conversation has birthed commercial enterprise where consultants of all kinds will offer their wisdom to organizations that are willing to pay the fees. For me, the true conversation and work is simply dependent on leaders and executives who have the decision rights to hire talented diverse employees and then make sure to develop a culture that makes all employees feel included. For me, the first part of the equation is simple—JUST HIRE! The executives, leaders and hiring managers in an organization are the people that have the power and responsibility to proactively make thoughtful decisions to mold a company’s culture that, among other things, encourages diversity and inclusion. These are also the people who can change the landscape of the Company by making it a point to hire talented employees who are diverse.
As the leader of BorgWarner’s legal department, I made the decision that this legal team will be the most talented group of lawyers and team members bar none. Oh, and by the way, did I also mention the diversity within the group? We have team members from all walks of life – different genders, ages, races, origins, etc. Our team of skilled individuals excel at their work and prove that hiring a diverse team is not difficult to do. I have never compromised on talent or performance. Looking for talent is a key imperative of mine. At every conference and every industry function I am looking for talented people. I don’t get caught up in whether candidates check every box listed for desired position. Instead, we look for talented, extremely bright individuals who are learners and have a desire and need to outperform. We put a strong emphasis on training, mentorship and taking a chance on people. In addition, it is my goal to foster a team dynamic that encourages debate and openness to hear a different perspective. Diversity in thought is truly one of the most effective ways to drive innovation and creativity.
None of this would be easy without a supportive boss and colleagues. I am proud to say that I work for a company with a CEO that is a true leader. BorgWarner’s President and CEO, Fred Lissalde, is a leader who has not only elevated the company’s diversity initiatives by promoting them on a global scale and continuing to keep their significance in the spotlight, he has also done what others fail to do: he has taken definitive action and hired talented, diverse C-suite executives. Again, simple. This simple action sets the tone for the entire company. For Fred, it is not just a conversation, it is about taking action. He also champions several key diversity initiatives. Recently, Fred signed the CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion™, the growing coalition that pledges to advance diversity and inclusion across the globe. More than 800 CEOs from the world’s most influential companies and organizations are backing the cause. By making the pledge, Fred is taking steps to further cultivate a workplace where diversity is welcomed and where employees are given opportunities to discuss inclusion openly. Similarly, this year Fred and Felecia Pryor, our Chief Human Resource Officer (and a woman of color hired by Fred), held Unconscious Bias training for all the C-suite executives. This training provided executives the opportunity to find and mitigate unconscious bias in their daily lives. Fred and Felecia are sponsoring this training throughout the organization.
Another BorgWarner diversity initiative sponsored by Fred is our Women in Leadership program that focuses on nurturing women with high potential at every level of their careers. These women have opportunities to participate in Mentoring, Women Rising or LevelUp programs to develop self-awareness and leadership skills in a safe environment. Once they complete these programs, they can participate in the BorgWarner Women’s Executive Forum, which brings together women across different sectors of the company to share their leadership experiences. This program not only encourages leadership among female employees but also fosters further professional growth in a personalized learning environment.
Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) is an initiative launched in 2018 by a female employee at our Propulsion Technical Center in Auburn Hills, Michigan. Through WISE, over 50 female coworkers have aimed to cultivate women in STEM fields by creating opportunities for social and professional growth. WISE also proactively gives back to the community by volunteering time and experience to local nonprofit organizations. This is an exciting initiative because it was started by an employee and is exactly the type of growth opportunity we encourage at BorgWarner. Furthermore, BorgWarner is a member of the National Minority Supplier Development Council, allowing the company to work with more than 70 businesses certified by a U.S. national diversity board as owned by minorities, women or veterans.
And we are not done. BorgWarner will continue to improve diversity and inclusion and we are committed to simply do the work! Yes, the conversation is important, but taking quick, decisive action to hire diverse talent and never compromise on excellence and work to ensure inclusiveness is more important.