‘DEI is a Journey and We're In This Together’: Insights From an Award-Winning DEI Leader

Sponsored by Continental

Mary Arraf. Photo courtesy of Continental.

Mary Arraf. Photo courtesy of Continental.

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“DEI is a journey, and we’re in this together,” says Mary Arraf, Sr. Manager of Communications and Head of DEI at Continental Automotive, North America. “For us, it is not about perfection, but progress. It is intimidating to get started, but you must start somewhere and that somewhere will help move the needle.”

As Continental’s first head of DEI, Arraf knows from experience what it takes to start something new; however, this has never stopped her. In her case, Arraf notes that Continental had “a lot of the foundations of DEI embedded in our core values, but there needed to be accountability to make sure this is woven into everything we do.” 

Through her leadership, Continental has not only launched new DEI programs, but also focused on education and mentorship to help their entire workforce become more inclusive, perspective, and aware of unconscious biases.

Another key aspect of growing a DEI program is acknowledging the importance of working toward goals — together. “At Continental, we also knew that partnerships and networks are critical,” Arraf tells us. “DEI is not a competitive space. We all need each other, and, together, we create an even bigger impact.”

Aligned with this thinking, Continental offers a variety of DEI-related groups and communities for employees to join. In addition to leading the DEI Council for Auto and the DEI Advisory Group for Continental North America, Arraf herself is part of the Women’s Network ERG.

As for how she makes time for all of this important work, Arraf tells us that she relies on “passion, a commitment to always be better, and a great team dedicated to a better tomorrow.”

And her hard work is being recognized! Recently, Arraf was named by Automotive News as a Champion of Diversity. “As head of diversity, equity and inclusion for Continental North America’s automotive unit, Mary Arraf is charged with helping to boost the diversity, equity and inclusion efforts of one of the world’s largest auto suppliers,” states Automotive News.

Here, Arraf shares more about her award-winning DEI work. Read on for inspiration for your own company’s DEI projects.

To begin, can you tell us a bit about your Continental’s D&I efforts and employee resource groups.

Continental has implemented DEI Councils in each business sector across North America. Additionally, it has one DEI Advisory Group with an executive sponsor for North America. The DEI Networks aim to create an inclusive work culture, ensuring diverse workforce and investing in our communities. Through our collective efforts, the DEI Network has grown our ERGs in North America, implemented a floating holiday policy for greater inclusion, created a DEI resource hub on our intranet site, as well as implemented programs, lunch and learns, and trainings to help build awareness and understanding

I’m particularly proud of the floating holiday policy — which allows employees to take a day off, without using their PTO, for a holiday that is more meaningful to them — that we were able to secure a budget specifically for DEI to help support our ERGs, and our community partnerships that we have created through this program. 

Could you tell us a bit more about how ERG’s work at Continental? 

ERGs are led by the employees. To get started, we created a quick four-step guide and an ERG manual for employees thinking of starting one. Interested employees are asked to submit a form request, which is evaluated by our ERG liaisons and brought to the DEI Advisory Group. 

Once approved, the ERG is supported in finding an executive sponsor. ERGs are asked to submit an annual plan and request for funding, if necessary, which is supported by the DEI program. 

How are your company’s ERGs reflective of the overall culture?

Continental’s For One Another core value is the foundation upon which ERGs are built. They exist to ensure colleagues can bring their whole selves to work, provide support, create a safe space, and help in personal and career development. 

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