FreightWaves LIVE @HOME: Embracing diversity isn’t just right; It’s good business (with video)

CEOX Ambassador Lori Heino-Royer (from left); Tracy Black, operating partner at New Road Capital Partners; and Luann Abrams, founder of CEOX and partner at Founders Pad

Women account for just 15% of executives in the transportation industry, despite numerous studies showing companies that embrace diversity in their management tend to make more money.

“So there’s still an opportunity for us to build out the diverse set in the transportation space,” Tracy Black, operating partner at New Road Capital Partners and former J.B. Hunt executive, said during FreightWaves LIVE @HOME on Thursday, May 7.

Black highlighted the gap in executive diversity during “Driving Diversity,” a wide-ranging discussion with Lori Heino-Royer, ambassador for CEOX and a former director at Daimler Trucks North America; and Luann Abrams, founder of CEOX and partner at venture capital fund Founders Pad.

Abrams pointed to a report released by Foreign Policy in March, “Women as Levers of Change.” It found that companies with the highest percentage of women in executive roles are 47% more profitable. 

“If that’s not an impetus to create a more diverse team in the executive levels, I don’t know what is,” Abrams said.

Heino-Royer said companies need to look beyond simply having additional women in roles.

“I really want to see companies move past tolerance – that I’ve brought somebody else in – but really have each individual fill their potential,” Heino-Royer said.

Abrams stressed that the absence of women executives isn’t simply a problem of a lack of candidates in the pipeline. 

“There’s a lot more we can do now,” Abrams said. “Yes, we need to start early and start filling that pipeline earlier. Today I recommend companies need to question everything they’re doing.” 

That means taking a hard look at company culture and the support in place for women and other underrepresented people, she said. 

For large established companies, Black stressed the need for executives to lead by example. 

“If you have an open management position, refuse to fill it until your team brings you a diverse slate of candidates,” Black said. “You don’t have to fill the position with a diverse candidate, but it’s your job to see that the opportunities are being presented.”