Stating that it has made recent efforts to fight systemic racism and promote diversity through inclusion and equal opportunity for everyone, Cox Automotive has established its newest employee resource group called the Black Employee Network.

That program is for any team member interested in better understanding and combatting anti-black and systemic racism.

In addition, Cox Automotive Canada says it is the automotive industry’s first company to sign the BlackNorth Initiative’s CEO Pledge.

With those two programs, Cox Automotive Canada said it hopes to encourage its team members and other industry and community members to take a stance and encourage positive change.

The company said it is an organization that believes in living its guiding principal to “always do the right thing.”

“As leaders in our industry and communities, we have a responsibility to champion positive change,” Maria Soklis, president, Cox Automotive Canada and Brazil, said in a news release.

Soklis continued, “We need to set an example by providing equal opportunities and ensuring everyone feels welcome and comfortable to bring their true self to work without any form of discrimination. By sharing our efforts and leading, I hope that we can encourage others to do the same.”

Black Employee Network

The Black Employee Network, or BEN, is one program to help with those goals, and it is inspired by the organization’s Women With Drive employee resource group that was developed earlier this year.

Through BEN’s three pillars of education, celebration and inspiration, it seeks to provide a safe and positive environment to discuss ideas and thoughts regarding inclusion and equality. It also looks to actively create a better and more inclusive workplace and society for future generations.

“As part of our learning, we are engaging our team members and are proud to support the Black Employee Network in their efforts to combat systemic racism through education, celebration and inspiration,” Soklis said.

Soklis continued, “I am confident that BEN will generate intuitive ideas and initiatives that will continue to have a real and lasting positive impact on the opportunities for Black people within Cox Automotive Canada, the industry and our community.”

The company says BEN’s structure and goals are now in place, and with several initiatives launching in the coming months, more than 50 team members are contributing to BEN’s efforts.

Real About Race

A video series called “Real About Race” is one of the Black Employee Network’s first initiatives. The team hopes to educate and inspire others through the series. For the program, BEN team members participate in conversations with Soklis and five members of her senior leadership team for conversations about racism that the company says are honest and difficult, but professional and meaningful.

“These are difficult conversations because they matter, and I was pleased to see the BEN team present this initiative and the immediate willingness of our leaders to participate,” Soklis said.

Soklis continued, “At Cox Automotive Canada, we believe that open dialogue is an important first step in solving any problem, and hope that this initiative can further inspire our team members, industry and community to also listen and think hard about how they can make a difference and do the right thing.”

BlackNorth Initiative’s CEO Pledge

The BlackNorth Initiative is led by The Canadian Council of Business Leaders Against Anti-Black Systemic Racism. The initiative is on a mission to end anti-Black systemic racism in Canada throughout all aspects of life through a business-first mindset.

As part of its efforts, the initiative is asking that Canadian business leaders sign a pledge as a formal commitment to actions and goals that the company says will build more diverse and inclusive workplaces. About 400 companies have signed the CEO pledge so far.

Cox Automotive Canada says that when Soklis signed the pledge in November, it became the first company from Canada’s automotive industry to join the collaboration with other Canadian organizations. Through the efforts of the Black Employee Network, several commitments within the pledge are already underway.

“The automotive sector plays a key role in Canada’s economy and employs over half a million people across the country, so the introduction of programs like the Black Employee Network, not only benefit employees of Cox Automotive, but the industry as a whole,” said BlackNorth Initiative executive director Dahabo Ahmed Omer.

Omer continued, “It is promising to see industry leaders such as Ms. Soklis lead the charge in developing diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives such as these to ensure current, and future BIPOC employees are provided a safe and supportive work environment.”

“On behalf of our team at Cox Automotive Canada, I am proud to take this pledge and to join so many other Canadians that are leveraging their leadership role as an opportunity to set an example in creating a more inclusive future,” Soklis said.

Cox Automotive Canada says that although it is proud of the efforts, the organization and its leaders realize that much remains to be done regarding overall inclusivity. The company encourages all Canadians to seek positive change in their own way.