Driving Diversity


With all the attention focused on cars, the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit might be the last place to find a discussion about diversity in the auto industry. But on the eve of the show, an event took place to do just that.

Produced by Decisive Media, the Urban Wheel Awards is the official multicultural event of the NAIAS. Now in its 17th year, it focused on achievements by women of color with co-hosts Niecy Nash and Edward James Olmos. Latinas recognized at the event included Georgette Borrego Dulworth, Chrysler; Dolores M. Rodriguez, Whisper Creative Products; and Evelyn Chatel, Freedom Automotive Group.

“We are here to promote progress in diversity and inclusiveness within the many operations of the automotive industry, including its dealers, suppliers, executives, community outreach, and most of all, human resources,” said Randi Payton, president and CEO of Decisive Media.

Chrysler was recognized as Company of the Year for progress in human resources. Representing the company’s efforts in hiring, Dulworth joined the company in 2011. She leads the Diversity Office in an effort to further enhance its recruiting efforts to create a multicultural workforce. She also serves on the company’s Global Diversity Council that has produced 19 strategic initiatives.

“We’re very pleased to be honored for our efforts to support the success of our company,” she says. “Each recognition we receive builds on the last one. They affirm that at Chrysler, we get that diversity matters. It’s a great driver for talent.”

Dulworth has 20 years of cross-functional experiences in human resources, legal, finance, corporate administration, and business development. She’s also the founding president of the Centro Mexicano de Michigan.

Beyond a multicultural workforce, a diverse group of contractors and suppliers also points to a vibrant industry. Rodriguez was the Hispanic Supplier of the Year. In the packaging business since 1994, she founded Whisper Creative Products in 1998. “I started out selling pressure sensitive labels and my customers would ask if we are able to provide cartons and other packaging products and services,” she shares. “My business started small and now has grown into a wonderful business with a strong value proposition.”

For most car buyers, the dealership is where a real commitment to diversity is revealed. Co-owner of Freedom Automotive Group (Toyota, Scion, Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, and Ram) in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania with her partner Eric Savage, Chatel considers winning the award for Dealership of the Year the ultimate tribute to her parents. In a video presented at the show, she shared the emotional story of how, in a moment, the family faced an incredible decision, to join a freedom flight out of Cuba. Unknown to the family, her father had been arrested while waiting in line for bread. In a matter of minutes, her mother had to decide to take the flight and save herself and her children, Chatel, age three, and her baby brother.

“My mom, pregnant at the time, fled hoping that my father would follow us. He was sent to work in the cane fields, or what served as prison in Cuba. We didn’t see him for two years,” she recounts.

After 30 years in the auto industry, Chatel relocated with her husband and two children, from Miami to Harrisburg to start her business. “If my parents could risk leaving their home to settle in a new country with no money and not speaking the language, then I knew I could succeed at anything. It proves what can be done if you have the willpower and determination to go forward.”

At the NAIAS, General Motors stole the show with the reveal of its all-new 2014 Corvette Stingray; the all-new Cadillac ELR that will be the first gasoline-electric plug-in in its segment, similar to the Chevy Volt; and the selection of the all-new Cadillac ATS as the 2013 North American Car of the Year. Other winners included the Ram 1500, named 2013 North American Truck/Utility of the Year.

Valerie Menard