Season 2, Ep 03: Driving Transformation: Cheryl Thompson’s Journey to Change the Face of Power and Influence in Automotive

“This is an investment in your people,” explains Cheryl Thompson, Founder and CEO of the Center for Automotive Diversity Inclusion and Advancement (CADIA), which works to address the systemic disparities around diversity and inclusion in the automotive industry. Cheryl gained her first insights into how true leaders operated while serving as wait staff at Ford World Headquarters. After rising in the ranks at the company to a position of global leadership, she realized how many talented people were overlooked and underestimated due to lack of inclusive practices within the automotive industry. Through her organization, CADIA, she is working to double the number of diverse leaders within the automotive industry by 2030, and as a member of the CEO Coalition for Change, she works with fellow leaders to bring similar change across a variety of industries.


Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) practices not only benefit the employee, their families and their communities, but employers as well, by accelerating company as well as industry progress. As the population changes and a new generation of workers demand new standards and practices, leaders can’t afford not to infuse an equitable and diverse mindsets into everything from recruitment practices to performance evaluations. 


DEI is an ongoing practice and the work is never over. Join today’s discussion to learn about the challenges the automotive industry still faces, the progress that has already been made, and the many invisible aspects of diversity in the workplace that often get overlooked. 



  • “When I got to that table, I sat around and thought, ‘Wow. I thought y’all had it all figured out.’ And that was my big ‘aha!’ that I had been underestimated, I had been underestimating myself. That’s when I really started to have more awareness about how things work, and how some people are just overlooked and they just have so much more to contribute.” (4:12 | Cheryl Thompson)
  • “This is an investment in your people, giving them time to participate in something like this is going to help your productivity through communication and being more effective and efficient, with fewer quality mistakes, and that psychological safety to call out when something isn’t OK.” (24:32 | Cheryl Thompson)
  • “I’d like to see even more progress in terms of representation overall, and have that carry through to the very senior levels of C-Suite. I’d like to see the same with racial and ethnic minorities, representation increased there. And I’d like to see companies have cultures that are a lot more psychologically safe so that people can self-identify.” (25:22 | Cheryl Thompson)
  • “A lot of the companies see the demographics changing and this next generation coming into the workplace– boy oh boy, they are not putting up with the stuff you and I tolerated. Leaders want to know how we attract and retain talent and they’re starting to realize if we aren’t more inclusive with our recruiting, we’re going to miss out on 61% of the workforce.” (27:26 | Cheryl Thompson)