Manufacturers Stand Up for Equality
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Manufacturing businesses have long been proponents of equality in the workplace. As legislation to codify protections for LGBT individuals passes through the House of Representatives, the National Association of Manufacturers joined the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Business Roundtable, and other members of the business community in advocating its passage, forging coalitions and providing congressional testimony.
Introduced with bipartisan support in the U.S. House and Senate in March, the Equality Act includes federal protections for individuals based on sexual orientation and gender identity under the existing framework of the Civil Rights Act, which already provides protection against discrimination on the basis of religion, national origin, race, color or sex. The goal of the legislation is to ensure that no person can face legal discrimination based on their gender or sexual orientation, setting a clear federal standard to enable individuals to succeed based on their abilities and qualifications to perform a job.
“Employers understand the importance of creating an environment in which the very best people can succeed based on merit,” Patrick Hedren, NAM vice president, labor, legal and regulatory policy, said. “At the same time, manufacturers know that discrimination in any form is antithetical to the values that we work to uphold every day: equality of opportunity, individual liberty, free enterprise and competitiveness.”
In March, more than 40 other industry associations rallied to support the Equality Act, providing an important boost for the groundbreaking legislation. In the weeks since, manufacturing representatives have testified before the House Education and Labor Committee and signed a coalition letter to the House Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Human Services calling for the Act’s passage. As Congress considers the way forward, manufacturers have made clear that they intend to advocate forcefully on behalf of the legislation and uphold their commitment to workers of every gender identity and sexual orientation.
“The Equality Act creates a clear federal standard that matches the sentiments manufacturers already share: gender identity and sexual orientation have no impact on an employee’s abilities and discrimination is not welcome on the manufacturing floor,” Hedren said. “We look forward to working with Congress as this important legislation moves ahead.”
NAM Welcomes DOL Repeal of Onerous “Persuader Rule”
Manufacturers Score Another Key Regulatory Win Under Trump Administration
Washington, D.C. – National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) President and CEO Jay Timmons released the following statement after the Department of Labor (DOL) rescinded the 2016 Persuader Rule:
Manufacturers have fought for this victory for many years in the courts, in Congress and with two administrations, using the full weight of our policy, government relations and legal teams, said Timmons. The NAM’s Manufacturers’ Center for Legal Action was able to halt the rule in court in 2016.And in 2017, the Trump administration, as part of its broader regulatory relief agenda, thankfully began the process of unwinding the rule. This overreaching rule threatened to impose serious burdens on manufacturers and upend employee–employer communications. Now manufacturers are relieved that this threat to workplace communications is finally and officially off the books. Commonsense steps like this to rein in onerous regulations are a major reason why manufacturers are reporting record-high business optimism.
In 2016, the NAM testified on the harmful impacts of the rule before the House Small Business Committee and the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship.
The Manufacturers’ Center for Legal Action (MCLA) is the leading voice of manufacturers in the courts and engages in a range of activities, including direct party litigation and operating a robust amicus program, as well as educating manufacturers about emerging legal trends. The MCLA is led by NAM Senior Vice President and General Counsel Linda Kelly and NAM Vice President of Litigation and Deputy General Counsel Peter Tolsdorf. More information on the MCLA can be found here.
The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) is the largest manufacturing association in the United States, representing small and large manufacturers in every industrial sector and in all 50 states. Manufacturing employs more than 12 million men and women, contributes $2.25 trillion to the U.S. economy annually, has the largest economic impact of any major sector and accounts for more than three-quarters of private-sector research and development. The NAM is the powerful voice of the manufacturing community and the leading advocate for a policy agenda that helps manufacturers compete in the global economy and create jobs across the United States. For more information about the Manufacturers or to follow us on Shopfloor, Twitter and Facebook, please visit www.nam.org.
Creators Wanted Gets Big Results
With a skills gap and misperceptions about modern manufacturing threatening to leave millions of manufacturing jobs unfilled by 2030, Creators Wanted, a campaign by the NAM and the Manufacturing Institute, stepped in. Now, it is seeing eye-popping results as it works to inspire 600,000 new manufacturers by 2025.
Connecting with communities: From July through November of this year, Creators Wanted continued to take its tour to communities across the country, offering potential manufacturers, career influencers and community leaders an exciting opportunity to learn about modern industry. Stops included Midland, Michigan; Nashville/White House, Tennessee; West Columbia, South Carolina; Decatur, Illinois; and Chicago, Illinois.
Promoting knowledge: These latest stops have bolstered the tour’s overall reach. As of this month, the tour has brought 7,900 students through its immersive experience and motivated 840,000 students and potential career mentors—including parents and educators—to sign up online to learn more about manufacturing careers.
- “Our propriety algorithm for directing our campaign’s content to potential future manufacturers continues to get even more effective as we engage more people,” said NAM Managing Vice President of Brand Strategy Chrys Kefalas.
- “We’ve added more than 500,000 people to our email network since only September, giving the industry a powerful tool to reengage important audiences in building the future workforce.”
Changing minds: Creators Wanted is focused on exposing students, parents and teachers to the reality of modern manufacturing to challenge outdated notions and encourage young people to see manufacturing as a potential career.
- Approximately 75%of people who have participated in the tour reported that they left the experience with a significantly improved view of modern manufacturing careers.
Getting the word out: In addition, Creators Wanted has generated approximately $5 million in positive earned media about the campaign and modern manufacturing careers—ensuring that people across the country gained greater awareness of the campaign’s resources and significant need for talent in manufacturing.
Building on progress: These results build on the sustained workforce solutions of the MI, the workforce development and education partner of the NAM, which runs programs geared toward women, veterans and underrepresented communities.
- The MI and Deloitte report that positive perception of manufacturing careers among parents has soared from 27% when the tour started to 40% today—closing in on the goal of 50% by 2025.
The road ahead: The campaign will soon deploy additional resources for job seekers and students at CreatorsWanted.org, in partnership with FactoryFix, the official recruiting partner of the campaign. Find out more about the Creators Wanted campaign here.
How Manufacturers Can Boost Their D&I Efforts
The manufacturing leaders who met in Washington, D.C., this month agreed wholeheartedly: D&I is integral to building and retaining the workforce of tomorrow.
At the third-annual Diversity+Inclusion Summit convened by the Manufacturing Institute, leaders gathered to share data, insights and lessons gleaned from their own D&I efforts. Hailing from many different industry sectors and companies of all sizes, the panelists and attendees laid out concrete actions that can transform companies’ D&I objectives.
Why it matters: With 2.1 million jobs expected to go unfilled in the industry by 2030, manufacturers need to find new populations of potential employees. Recruiting more women, racial and ethnic minorities and neurodiverse workers can expand companies’ talent pools and strengthen their workforces.
- In fact, increasing the current female workforce from 29% to 35% would fill the industry’s 746,000 open jobs all on its own, according to a recent study by the MI and Colonial Life.
- That’s why the MI is working to meet this target through its 35 x 30 Campaign—i.e., increasing the percentage of women in manufacturing to 35% by 2030.
How to do it: The summit offered important tips to help companies boost their D&I efforts, including:
- Get buy-in from company leaders: Research shows that D&I efforts lead to greater productivity, increased innovation and higher revenue—not to mention the recruitment and retention benefits. Once companies set D&I goals, leaders should incorporate D&I objectives into their annual goals to create opportunities for accountability.
- Use employee resource groups in a structured way: Companies should set up organizational structures for their ERGs that will ensure longevity and encourage fresh thinking, as well as align with companies’ overall D&I goals. These groups should have their own budgets and rotating leadership positions. When possible, the contributions of ERG leaders should be included in their incentive programs or annual goals.
- Educate your first-line supervisors about D&I: By training first-line supervisors on the latest in D&I and company-specific objectives, companies can help them both support their teams better and collect feedback to inform the overall effort.
- Offer child care and flexibility: In the post-pandemic environment, companies are still exploring what works best for them, but one thing is clear: to recruit and retain talent in a tight labor market, companies need to provide employees with options. (Check out our recent webinar on the same subject.)
Learn more: Interested in joining the conversation? Check out the MI’s D&I tools and resources, and register for upcoming events, including our upcoming Virtual Diversity+Inclusion Summit on Dec. 16, here. The virtual summit will include some recorded sessions from this event as well.
How Manufacturers Can Leverage Adaptive Skills
The skills gap is one of the biggest challenges facing manufacturers today—but what if there was a way to overcome it and fill jobs more effectively and easily? In fact, such a method exists, and it’s called “adaptive skills” development.
Timely topic: The Manufacturing Institute’s inaugural Workforce Summit in Cincinnati, Ohio, covered this topic last month, in a session led by two EY partners. Here’s what they had to say.
- “What are adaptive skills? It’s exactly as you would expect: they’re skills that help an individual learn and expand their capabilities to meet an ever-changing job function, business market [or] home environment,” EY Americas Business Consulting Leader Lisa Caldwell told the audience.
- Developing and leveraging these skills, which include communication and problem solving, helps companies retain a broader workforce, according to a recent joint EY–MI study that built on earlier research from EY and Oxford Said Business School, Caldwell said.
- This is particularly important today, as the U.S. workforce could have a shortage of 2.1 million manufacturing jobs by 2030 if the skills gap is not addressed, according to a joint Deloitte–MI study cited by Caldwell.
Manufacturing-specific skills: In their study, the EY and MI identified three specific adaptive skills “that were highly relevant to the manufacturing industry,” said EY People Advisory Services Partner Stephen Fuller during the session.
- Root-cause analysis: The ability “to understand what the root of a problem is, what the data needed to make a decision is,” as Fuller put it.
- Systems thinking: It’s “all about … asking questions. ‘Who does this? Where does this go? How does this work? When does XYZ occur?’”
- Creative reasoning: The key here is the ability to consider problems from unusual perspectives, said Fuller.
Lessons learned: Caldwell shared some of the major study takeaways that manufacturers can use.
- Create an adaptive culture: “[B]uild a culture that … empowers, a culture that wants collaboration, a culture that encourages and recognizes people who speak up, who bring forward ideas.”
- Parlay adaptive skills into new career paths: “If we build career paths and we define the skills and the capabilities that are needed for those career paths, focusing on adaptive skills as much as the technical skills, I think we have something that could really attract people to want to not only come but stay in manufacturing.”
- Invest in individualized learning: This can include rotating jobs, mentoring, shadowing programs and leveraging technology to create experiential learning for employees, said Caldwell.
- Add adaptive skills to your hiring strategy: “It’s really important that we have classroom training and virtual training that isn’t just slides up on a screen, but is very immersive for people and lets them actually feel and experience … what we’re trying to teach them.”
The last word: Ultimately, closing the skills gap “all starts with skills and infusing adaptive skills into your role profiles,” Fuller said. “[Use] it as a way to connect people to learning experiences that are meaningful for them. That’s ultimately the formula for success.”
NAM Retirement Plans Offer Security for Manufacturers
At a time when attracting and retaining talented employees is more important than ever, offering a retirement plan can make a critical difference. But for manufacturers like Winton Machine Company, a tube and coax fabrication manufacturer based in Suwanee, Georgia, the cost of a plan can create a real challenge.
- “It’s really difficult as a small manufacturer, because you’re competing against benefit packages that are given by large companies,” said Winton Machine CEO and co-owner Lisa Winton.
That’s why, when the company came across the NAM’s Manufacturers Retirement & Savings plan, they knew they were onto something good.
A tailored plan: The Manufacturers Retirement & Savings Plan, offered in partnership with Principal Financial Group® and HUB International LLC, is a multiple employer plan that is available to all NAM members and designed to cover all 14,000 member companies. Companies of all sizes can participate, which creates new financial opportunities for and offers more security to the millions of men and women who make things in America.
A trusted approach: Winton appreciates that the program offers a product she can trust—and that her employees can rely on. Because the plan comes vetted and designed by the NAM, she can feel confident that she and her employees are invested in a high-quality offering.
- “I have a hard enough time understanding what funds to put my 401(k) in,” said Winton. “I depend on a financial advisor who’s an expert in that area. So my employees, a lot of them are in the same position as I am.”
Useful resources: The NAM’s plan also comes with a range of exclusive tools designed to help manufacturers understand their investments so that they can make the most of the opportunities available to them.
- “There’s great online resources, and we’re also able to share those videos on the premises with our people,” said Winton. “We’ve had one-on-ones, we’ve had group trainings. We’re looking forward to . . . having a financial advisor come and meet with our employees and talk to them, encourage them to put more money in their 401(k), but also help educate them on what’s happening with their money and how to invest it better.”
Accessible support: Winton Machine emphasized the value of the plan’s support system, which answers questions from employees and company leaders.
- “It’s been very, very easy,” said Winton. “I have one point of contact, which is really important. I don’t have to go and call a 1-800 number if I’ve got an issue.”
The bottom line: “The [NAM retirement] plans are new, they haven’t been around that long, and they offer a lot of opportunities for us to share costs and also really understand your funds and understand what you’re paying for,” said Winton. “I think I have a much better overall product now at the same price or less.”
Rail Unions Move Closer to National Strike
Another large labor union has voted to reject the rail deal brokered in part by the Biden administration, moving the industry closer to a strike, according to CNBC.
Split decision: Two of the largest railroad labor unions in the United States went separate ways during their contract ratification votes, which were announced on Monday. The Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers – Transportation Division voted against the proposed agreement by a slim margin, while the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen voted to ratify it.
What it means: This latest action raises the likelihood of a rail work stoppage in early December. In total, 8 of 12 unions have now ratified the tentative agreement concluded in September while the rank-and-file membership of 4 unions have rejected it.
- Should one union choose to go on strike, the broad impact would cripple the national freight rail network.
The impact: The railroad industry and major shipping groups have found that a strike would likely cost around $2 billion per day, also according to CNBC. It would affect every major rail operator.
- “The American Chemistry Council, which represents companies including 3M, Dow, Dupont, BP, Exxon Mobil and Eli Lilly, said a rail strike would impact approximately $2.8 billion in chemicals cargo a week, and lead to a GDP decline and renewed inflation.”
- “Other industries, from agriculture to retail, have warned of the economic risks of a strike.”
Next steps: Negotiations will continue through a cooling-off period that runs until early December. If a deal is not reached by 12:01 a.m. EST on Dec. 5, a strike could occur. The NAM and others have urged Congress to take action under the Railway Labor Act and pass legislation that would avert a strike if railroads and rail unions cannot reach such a deal.
What we’re saying: “Manufacturers are disheartened by today’s news on the further unraveling of rail negotiations,” said NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons. “It’s clear that Congress, both Democrats and Republicans, must be prepared to work together immediately to avert a rail strike and prevent further damage to our supply chain.”
Manufacturers Call for Passage of the Respect for Marriage Act
Bill will protect current and future interracial and same-gender marriages while providing appropriate religious protections
Washington, D.C. – Today, the National Association of Manufacturers released the following statement calling for passage of the Respect for Marriage Act:
“Manufacturers know that individuals truly thrive in their careers when they can bring their authentic selves to work and feel confident that their families will be safe from discrimination or worse in the places they have chosen to live. The Respect for Marriage Act would ensure that the legal protections around which so many Americans, including manufacturing workers, have ordered their lives will not be suddenly rolled back. Codifying federal protections for interracial marriages and same-gender marriages with appropriate protections for religious liberty will help keep all families equal under the law and ensure that manufacturers can continue to hire and retain a diverse and talented workforce. It will deliver families and businesses the certainty they need and deserve.”
The National Association of Manufacturers is the largest manufacturing association in the United States, representing small and large manufacturers in every industrial sector and in all 50 states. Manufacturing employs more than 12.9 million men and women, contributes $2.77 trillion to the U.S. economy annually and accounts for 58% of private-sector research and development. The NAM is the powerful voice of the manufacturing community and the leading advocate for a policy agenda that helps manufacturers compete in the global economy and create jobs across the United States. For more information about the NAM or to follow us on Twitter and Facebook, please visit www.nam.org
Caterpillar Foundation Helps Veterans Find Manufacturing Careers
On Veterans Day, we honor the service members who safeguard our country, many of whom will go on to contribute their skills and experiences to civilian industries. Manufacturing is one beneficiary, with many veterans finding that the high-tech, mission-focused industry is an excellent home for their talents.
But how do transitioning service members and veterans find their new career paths? The Caterpillar Foundation is helping America’s heroes become tomorrow’s manufacturing leaders through its support of the Manufacturing Institute’s Heroes MAKE America initiative.
HMA provides integrated certification and career-readiness training in partnership with local community colleges to prepare transitioning service members, veterans, National Guard members, reservists and military spouses for rewarding careers in the manufacturing and supply chain industries.
Virtual training: The Caterpillar Foundation’s support began in 2021 and has helped HMA develop and launch its first 100% virtual training offering in partnership with Texas State Technical College—an exciting option for individuals across the country who might not be able to attend an in-person course.
- The program uses innovative solutions like virtual reality technology, provided by Transfr VR, in order to add a “hands-on” aspect to the students’ training for their Production Technician and OSHA 10 certifications.
- “Heroes MAKE America was great,” said Benjamin Novak, a graduate of Heroes MAKE America’s virtual training program. “The virtual self-paced program allowed me to balance class, transitioning and family life. Getting an opportunity to connect and speak with companies directly was a huge opportunity as well.”
New programs: Additionally, thanks to the foundation’s grant, Heroes MAKE America launched two new in-person training paths: a Mechatronics training program at Fort Hood, Texas, also in partnership with Texas State Technical College, and a Certified Logistics Technician training program at Fort Stewart/Hunter Army Airfield, Georgia, in partnership with Savannah Technical College.
- Together, the three new training offerings (the two mentioned above and the virtual option) have graduated 133 participants as of November 2022, with another 40 participants expected to graduate in December.
- “Heroes MAKE America is a great program that wants to see veterans succeed,” said Anna Rabago, a graduate of the Mechatronics training at Fort Hood, Texas. “They helped mold me into a great candidate for manufacturing while earning seven manufacturing certifications. The instructors are subject-matter experts in their field and are willing to work early or late evenings to benefit the soldiers.”
An impressive year: The HMA program is on track to graduate 303 members of the military community across all 6 training sites in 2022, bringing the total number of graduates since the 2018 inception of HMA to 957. The training sites include Fort Hood, Texas; Fort Stewart/Hunter Army Airfield, Georgia; Fort Riley, Kansas; Fort Campbell, Kentucky; Fort Bragg, North Carolina; and the 100% virtual option.
The last word: “HMA provided me with all the tools that I needed to thrive as a civilian,” said Tillman Harris, a graduate of the Production Technician training at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. “They provided industry training, résumé assistance, interview prep and much more. Trust in yourself and have confidence in everything you do. HMA is a program that cares about us and wants us to succeed.”
Learn more: Find out more about Heroes MAKE America here.
Cornerstone Building Brands Creates a Diverse, Inclusive Workplace
To Carol Enneking, creating a diverse and inclusive workplace is less of a race to a finish line than an ongoing expedition that never really ends.
A journey: “Realizing a workplace culture where DE&I is not just prioritized but celebrated was a critical aspiration,” said Enneking, Cornerstone Building Brands’ vice president of talent management, learning and diversity. “It’s a journey to get there, but not a destination where you will ever arrive to stay. You expect your workplace to evolve as highly diverse and inclusive, but you can always do more,” she said.
Taking action: Cornerstone Building Brands, a leading manufacturer of exterior commercial and residential building products, has been taking decisive actions to increase diversity and inclusion since the company’s inception in 2018. Extra focus has been given to its DE&I strategy since 2020, shortly after the murder of George Floyd, when the company began activating its DE&I commitment with employees.
- “I spent a great deal of time on this in 2020,” Enneking said. “We had a group of executives that mobilized to provide a [company] response. It was a bit of a new frontier for us, especially as a new company, deciding to speak up and send a message about this. We worked hard to set the right tone.”
- It also became clear that a more focused DE&I approach would help the company in these situations and in the day-to-day creation of an inclusive culture.
- Now, the business has a DE&I team at the ready to drive their strategy forward: its DE&I Council, which meets monthly and focuses on strategic alignment; communications; coaching and training; and metrics and governance.
More diversity in management: Cornerstone Building Brands aspires to build a more diverse and inclusive organization that reflects the diversity of the communities where it operates. It is also focused on increasing the number of diverse employees in Cornerstone Building Brands’ management teams.
- “We have a very diverse frontline population,” Enneking said. “It’s close to 50% frontline employees of color and about 28% women, but we see those numbers decrease in management. The challenge is to bring that same representation into the management.”
- To engage employees in creating an inclusive culture, the DE&I Council disseminated a survey that led to the creation of four distinct employee resource groups: Women!, Patriots, Pride and Unity. All meet regularly to learn together, plan events, address specific employee concerns and foster mentoring opportunities.
- Another way forward has been the company’s 2021 signing of the NAM’s Pledge for Action, in which “manufacturers commit to taking 50,000 tangible actions to increase equity and parity for underrepresented communities, creating 300,000 pathways to job opportunities for Black people and all people of color.” In the first year after signing this pledge, Cornerstone Building Brands took 44 tangible actions toward achieving its commitment to the pledge and its broader DE&I goals.
How far they’ve come: All of Cornerstone Building Brands job descriptions now contain a DE&I statement that highlights its commitment, and the company recently published its first environmental, social and governance report, which included DE&I initiative details.
- Cornerstone Building Brands has worked to ensure that its “recruitment processes are bringing in diverse candidates” and that there is pay-scale parity, particularly in direct manufacturing roles, Enneking said.
- The company also has a reporting mechanism in place for all employees to make leadership aware of potential inclusivity violations or other issues.
- In addition, the manufacturer has instituted manager and employee DE&I learning modules, which comprise unconscious bias and inclusive leadership training led by professional facilitators, as well as accountability measures.
Making an impact: The work has started to pay off, said Enneking, who added that “there has been an increase” in diverse representation among Cornerstone Building Brands’ management. President and CEO Rose Lee, the first Korean American woman to head a Fortune 1000 company, was recently named a Pinnacle Award recipient by the Asian American Business Development Center. The company also recently hired two new female business unit presidents.
- The company has also broadened its search parameters in recruiting, Enneking said. “Diversity has many facets, many of which are not visible. We value diversity of thought and perspectives and are more willing to bring in people who may not have been in [our industry] all their lives but who can learn quickly and have transferable skills. In fact, those hires usually bring us a lot of ideas that we didn’t have. Sometimes you need to look outside to get those.”
Manufacturers Urge Swift Resolution to Ongoing Rail Negotiations
Washington, D.C. – National Association of Manufacturers President and CEO Jay Timmons released the following statement as negotiators work to reach an agreement between Class I railroads and all labor unions representing the freight rail workforce. Several organizations have not yet ratified the deal tentatively agreed to by union leadership and rail industry representatives in September that delayed the possibility of a strike.
“Manufacturers are urging congressional leaders to be prepared to bring stability and predictability to the economy if a rail strike and shutdown occurs. We already face economic turmoil with rising costs, product shortages and high inflation. Any nationwide rail strike or shutdown will cause even more economic pain. Manufacturers urge all parties to work rapidly—for the good of the country—to conclude this collective bargaining process.”
Background: A rail strike could begin as soon as 12:01 a.m. EST on Saturday, Nov. 19. Currently, the majority of the unions representing the rail workers have agreed to extend that deadline to Friday, Dec. 9, though a unanimous decision to maintain the status quo is required for that extension.
On Thursday, Oct. 27, the NAM joined hundreds of other associations in calling on President Biden to ensure a swift resolution and reiterating support for the work of the Presidential Emergency Board, which has aided in the talks.
Currently, the American freight rail network accounts for nearly 40% of total freight volume, and a strike or delay in finalizing a long-term contract would have devastating impacts across surface supply chain networks and economic output.
The National Association of Manufacturers is the largest manufacturing association in the United States, representing small and large manufacturers in every industrial sector and in all 50 states. Manufacturing employs more than 12.9 million men and women, contributes $2.77 trillion to the U.S. economy annually and has the largest economic multiplier of any major sector and accounts for 58% of private-sector research and development. The NAM is the powerful voice of the manufacturing community and the leading advocate for a policy agenda that helps manufacturers compete in the global economy and create jobs across the United States. For more information about the NAM or to follow us on Twitter and Facebook, please visit www.nam.org.
Phoenix Closures Invests in Diversity and Inclusion
Manufacturers come from many different communities and backgrounds—and Phoenix Closures, a sixth-generation, family-owned business that makes packaging and closures, wants to make sure that all of them feel welcome in the industry. In the past few years, the company has created a D&I initiative that ensures their employees feel included in and excited about the place where they work.
Getting the ball rolling: The company began by installing a leader to oversee their D&I efforts and combine programming and support into one place. Vice President of Quality and Corporate Social Responsibility Meena Banasiak—a 2020 honoree at the Women MAKE Awards, formerly known as the STEP Ahead Awards—sees her role not only as that of a leader, but as proof of Phoenix’s commitment.
- “I’m part of our progress in terms of D&I at Phoenix,” said Banasiak. “This position I am in was created in order to have someone in the role to establish a framework for corporate social responsibility. This position had never previously existed.”
- “We knew as a business that we were in many ways doing a lot of things that would fall within a D&I program, but without that clear purpose and intention and definitive resources put behind it.”
- “So, in a very visible and important way, I had the opportunity to be in a position of leadership and join the executive staff as a woman of color and set the course for the nature of this work that we
’ve been pursuing.”
Developing programs: The company has created and implemented a range of initiatives that allow employees to connect and contribute.
CSR committee: Phoenix developed an employee resource group that is focused on corporate social responsibility and includes representation from all the company’s operating locations. Employees are encouraged to voice their ideas on the types of programs that could be offered to the workforce, and the group offers tools and resources to help members implement programs at their respective sites.
- “It’s great to have a way to give people that voice, to make the work environment something
- that enables us to feel more included,” said Banasiak. “Yes, we’re here to do good work, but we might just be able to have fun while we’re doing it! We want our employees to feel comfortable bringing their whole selves to work if they want to and develop more profound relationships in the process.”
Parental leave: The company has expanded its parental leave benefits. Today, all full-time employees are eligible for the program, and the benefit applies to the non-birthing parent as well—including in cases of adoption.
- “There are people who have been able to take advantage of it right away—and just hearing their personal story, and their sense of relief knowing they have this support from their company—it’s unfettered relief,” said Banasiak. “It goes a very long way toward cementing the relationship between employer and employee, when you feel like your employer is invested in you.”
Volunteer time off: Phoenix’s full-time employees are encouraged to take up to eight hours of paid time off per calendar year to volunteer with the charitable organization of their choice—either individually, or as part of a team.
- “There have been a few different events where a group of employees have gone together, so it simultaneously serves as a teambuilding exercise with a broader impact,” said Banasiak. “At the same time, we get to share the stories of these experiences and celebrate those organizations that our employees find meaningful to them. Excitement breeds further excitement.”
Pledge for Action: Phoenix was a signatory of the NAM’s Pledge for Action, which committed the manufacturing industry to taking 50,000 tangible actions to increase equity and parity for underrepresented communities, creating 300,000 pathways to job opportunities for Black people and all people of color, and reflecting the diversity of the overall U.S. workforce by 2030.
Starting small: According to Banasiak, it’s important to be sensitive to needs across the entire company, but also to create small forums where employees can feel comfortable discussing issues. By empowering employees to come forward with ideas, a company can unleash the creativity, energy and enthusiasm of a diverse workforce.
Building the habit: “At first you might be in a place that feels more performative rather than substantive, but it’s still a legitimate starting point,” said Banasiak.
- “We never before made an intentional effort to acknowledge Hispanic Heritage Month or Black History Month. By now, our employees are creating and hosting their own events—but before that, our first step was literally a single email to the organization.”
- “I’d argue that first step is every bit as necessary and valid on this journey. Just making that conscious effort—that’s going to be meaningful to someone. It’s necessary to build that habit in small ways to create an environment where ideas start to flow. The motivation builds upon itself, but you have to start somewhere.”
The bottom line: “Results are not instantaneous or something that one person can achieve,” said Banasiak. “It’s about slowly shifting the narrative.”