Cox Automotive Canada has signed on with BlackNorth Initiative (BNI) as the first auto sector player to combat anti-black and systemic racism.
As part of the agreement with the social change organization, the Mississauga, Ont.-based company has pledged to meet specific hiring goals for its workforce and executive team from members of the Black community.
Maria Soklis, president of Cox Automotive Canada and Brazil, said that while the auto industry has taken some steps to embrace diversity and combat racism, more needs to be done.
“By joining BNI, and signing their pledge, what that is going to do is hold us accountable,” she told Automotive News Canada. She said eight auto-sector companies contacted her about the agreement with BNI in the week following its public announcement.
“This is just one opportunity where if we can get behind it as a company, there is no reason the industry can’t get behind it.”
Since its creation in July, BlackNorth Initiative has attracted strong support among corporate Canada, said Soklis.
“It was really important to us too that they had over 300 reputable and influential companies and CEOs who had partnered or agreed to take the pledge and that they were holding them accountable to seven tangible criteria.”
The BNI pledge commits Cox Automotive to set goals such as hiring at least five per cent of its student workforce and 3.5 percent of its executive and board positions from the Black community by 2025. The company currently employs about 1,000 people across the country.
“The automotive sector plays a key role in Canada’s economy and employs over half a million people across the country,” said Dahabo Ahmed-Omer, executive director of BNI. “[Cox Automotive] is setting an example for the rest of the industry in creating programs like the Black Employee Network, which ensures that current and future BIPOC [Black, Indigenous and People of Colour] employees are provided with a safe and supportive work environment.”
Cox’s 50-person Black Employee Network first identified the opportunity to combat systemic racism and has a number of programs set to roll out in the coming months.
The company has already taken strides with regards to adding diversity to its ranks, most notably in the addition and promotion of female employees to its top ranks. Today its executive team is more than 50 per cent female, including a top trio in the roles of president, chief financial officer and chief people officer.
“We didn’t have so many female leaders at the executive leadership level or within the pipeline below five, six years ago before I started with this company. In fact, I don’t think we had many women in leadership roles at all,” said Soklis.
Cox focuses on digital marketing, financial, wholesale and ecommerce solutions for auto consumers, dealers and manufacturers.