Writer: Kim Kisner

Detroit Business Leaders Share Diversity & Inclusion Insights at Mackinac Policy Conference

Published On June 6, 2023

At the beginning of June, 1,500 business, government, and community leaders convened at the Detroit Regional Chamber’s 43rd Mackinac Policy Conference.

SBN Detroit had a presence at the conference, and one of the panels – The Intersection of Business & Equity Objectives – seemed especially fitting for our network, so we’ve recapped it here.

Stephen Henderson, executive advisor, BridgeDetroit, and host of “Detroit Today” on WDET-FM and “American Black Journal” on Detroit Public TV facilitated the discussion with guests: Cynthia Bowman, global head of diversity & inclusion and corporate social responsibility, Bank of AmericaRonald Hall Jr., president and CEO, Bridgewater Interiors LLC; Camille Lloyd, director, Gallup Center on Black Voicesand Peter Quigley, president and CEO, Kelly Services Inc.

Key takeaways:

  • Bowman: Without discomfort, there is no growth. At Bank of America, diversity and inclusion in the context of the community we serve go hand in hand and we are driven by profit and purpose. And it’s got to be driven from the top. We think we have a role in creating economic opportunity and addressing racial equity within the community and our own people and that means competitive business reviews, talent reviews, performance management, and holding leaders accountable.
  • Hall: Bridgewater Materials employs 1,400 people in metro Detroit, and from day one, part of the company mission has been to demonstrate that we could employ an inner-city workforce at the highest level of manufacturing and deliver results. Driving efforts from the leadership team is critical, and having a diverse leadership team is also critical. Companies must lead the way inside the enterprise to demonstrate how it can be done.
  • Lloyd: Creating equitable systems in organizations is what workers want and deserve. With the war for talent, we must create an environment where people can leverage opportunities to get ahead and feel like they are doing meaningful work and contributing. People want to work, and we need to create conditions for workers where they can achieve equitable life outcomes.
  • Quigley: Obviously, my voice is not Black. People who look like me and have a position like me need to be part of the conversation and be held accountable for the outcome. I implore those of you who are not invested in this conversation to become invested – we all have a stake. At Kelly, we work with thousands of businesses, and those that have embraced the idea that opening up opportunities for more people is good business are achieving the best outcomes. The best-performing companies we serve have adopted a deliberate data-driven approach to DEI that measures and produces outcomes.
  • Hall: It’s important to keep employees engaged in decisions that matter to the community. We have our employees help us to decide what outside organizations we donate money to. A lot of employees who live near a plant care about the fact that the company supports community efforts. Leadership should show up at community meetings and respond to concerns. One example is there was an auto theft issue around our Warren plant, so we acted quickly and set up fencing and automatic gates. Employees respond to that. It’s an investment by the company to protect its people and their properties.
  • Quigley: Jobs and work are a critical important component of the success of a region, and we need to think about providing opportunities for more people to do so. Drug screening requirements and blemishes on criminal records eliminate 30% of potential employees, and the people who are most impacted by these barriers are people of color. When companies close that funnel, they are preventing more people of color from working there.
  • Bowman: There is a lot of debate on how you measure D&I. I say pick a point and measure it. At Bank of America, every manager has an inclusion index and a diversity index. Companies need to define it and measure it and hold people accountable. You need to be true to the data and facts and work toward specifically moving the needle.
  • Bowman: We each have a role – corporations, individuals, our own circles of influence. In this moment we each have a voice and responsibility and a cause, and we can do our part to create inclusion for all.
  • Quigley: Treating everyone fairly is not enough. We need to be deliberate to radically change the narrative.


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