‘The Topics of Equality and Fairness Do Not Have a Finish Line’ — Advice on Being an Effective Ally

Sponsored by Continental

Tom Fanning

Photo courtesy of Continental.

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July 21, 2024 at 9:34PM UTC

An ally is “someone who is part of your support network, both personally and professionally,” says Tom Fanning, vice president of U.S. Market Truck Tires at Continental. They should be “invested in your growth and success.”

Fanning tells Fairygodboss that, to be an ally who supports colleagues without being performative, you need empathy. “Share your experience and share viewpoints,” he remarks. “Help the colleague see situations from a broader perspective.”

At Continental, this level of teamwork is vital. After all, the company is committed to constantly innovating and pioneering technological solutions that are rewriting mobility and what it means to be a global manufacturer in this space. Their goal is to build a better world with zero automotive crashes, injuries and fatalities.

To get there, Continental needs the brightest minds to come together and collaborate. And they need a company full of allies who can support one another and help ensure that all people flourish — enabling innovation is imperative to the success of their team as individuals, and as an industry-leading company.

We caught up with Fanning to learn more about his experiences as an ally — including what he’s learned in becoming one, and how he’s become an even better ally over time. Here’s what he had to say.

What has been your best learning moment in your journey to becoming an ally?

My biggest realization has been that experiences vary widely.  What may be a very small problem for you personally can be a glacier to someone else in the organization. You can learn something from every person you come in contact with if you just listen.

What do you do in your day-to-day work life (and beyond) to serve as an ally?

Make the time to listen and support, not just solve problems. It’s about being present for all colleagues. The tire industry, like many, can be a “boy’s club.” We need to make sure that people are being inclusive in conversations and opportunities. 

My wife also works at Continental, and I’ve learned a tremendous amount from her. For example, the challenge of finding your voice and sharing your opinions as the only woman in a meeting with senior executives. We need to make sure that everyone’s opinions are shared and that others are aware of this challenge. My wife has been a huge help in opening my eyes to the types of situations women often experience.

What is your best advice for other people who want to be better allies?

Take a vested interest in those that need your support. Help them develop the courage or knowledge to fight for their ideas and positions.

Does Continental have any ally-related programs?

At Continental, we have several Employee Resource Groups (ERG) that are excellent resources. These ERGs host training opportunities and open discussions that are a place to get this type of support and bring awareness. In March, there were several webinars held during the week of International Women’s Day. I joined one, which was called Men as Allies, as a panelist to discuss how we can support female colleagues at Continental.  

More broadly, how does Continental foster a culture of equality and fairness?

I think Continental does a great job with DE&I initiatives. There is always more work to do here, but Continental provides a runway to make it happen. For instance, they allow employees to dedicate time and resources to our ERGs. When our Fort Mill, South Carolina Women’s Network formed, I joined as the Senior Executive Sponsor. This network always received support, and I never saw our leadership team question the value of the network or the need. The topics of equality and fairness do not have a finish line. It is about the type of culture you sustain in an organization.

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