Ford Marks 100 Years Of Advancing Diversity
As Ford Motor Company celebrates its Centennial this year, the company also marks its historical commitment to diversity and the role diversity will play in its future. One way Ford is doing that is by sponsoring the largest African American networking conferences in the country: the FraserNet PowerNetworking Conference in Cleveland, Ohio, June 19-21.
At the center of Ford's participation is a symposium on "Empowerment Through Entrepreneurship," which focuses on the importance of minority financial freedom and provides some tools for achieving it through workplace performance and small business development.
"The symposium is the newest example of one of Ford's oldest and longest-running commitments: diversity," said George Frame, executive director, Dealer Development, Ford Motor Company. "Providing information on entrepreneurship is not only the best way to help African Americans address their community's most current problem of a continuing wealth gap, but is the latest example in Ford's long history of leadership actions in advancing diversity."
In fact, the mission to empower individuals to achieve personal wealth – and its residual effect of building communities through economic development – has been a goal for Ford Motor Company since its inception nearly a century ago.
The man who put the world on wheels saw the wisdom in creating a diverse workforce — long before such concepts were embraced by other business leaders. During the early 20th Century, Ford founder Henry Ford instituted an innovative and then radical policy of equal pay for equal work. That policy encouraged the mass migration North of African Americans in search of jobs.
In 1916, Ford employed people who represented 62 nationalities and more than 900 people with disabilities. By the 1920s, Ford had more African American employees than any other automotive company.
"We want to create for everybody the best life conditions possible, a high level of opportunity —a life that people will be glad to live," wrote Henry Ford in his 1926 book Today and Tomorrow.
Today, Ford continues to attract a highly skilled workforce that reflects a broad spectrum of culture, ethnicity, race, perspective, age, religion, physical ability and sexual orientation.
Ford also leads U.S. automakers in percentage of minority-owned dealerships – supporting more than 39,000 jobs – and leads in minority supplier development, as a result of the company's strong Ford Supplier/Dealer Development operation.
Ford invests more than $3 billion annually with minority-owned and operated companies and in minority communities. In addition, Ford has expanded programs in nontraditional service areas that have positively impacted minority communities, such as minority-owned banks, brokerage firms, and investment and insurance companies.
"Ford Motor Company has moved beyond simply employing African Americans and other minorities," said Dr. Ray Jensen, director, Supplier Development, Ford Motor Company. "We have encouraged talented minorities to partner with the company to establish their own business, allowing Ford a medium to purchase products and services and maintaining its position as the leading trading partner with minority businesses in the United States. This commitment in turn not only empowers individuals, but strengthens minority communities."
The wealth gap in America will be closed, by creating jobs and opportunities for minorities. "Experts agree that this can best be achieved through entrepreneurship and demonstrated excellence in the workplace," said George Frame.
Ford is continuing its work in helping to create minority wealth, by sponsoring conferences like FraserNet – where African Americans can network with other business professionals and attend economic empowerment workshops like Ford's.
George Fraser, one of the nation’s foremost authorities on networking and building effective relationships, is the name behind the FraserNet conference and the featured speaker of Ford's "Empowerment Through Entrepreneurship" symposiums. Fraser has authored two books, Success Runs in Our Race: The Complete Guide to Effective Networking in the African American Community and the critically acclaimed bestseller, Race for Success: The Ten Best Business Opportunities for Blacks in America. He is also the publisher of the award-winning SuccessGuide Worldwide: The Networking Guide to Black Resources.
"With a renewed focus on business ownership, our community is going to take the final steps from the civil rights movement to economic empowerment," said Fraser. "Black businesses tend to hire black people. Black empowerment empowers the black community."
FraserNet is one stop on the Ford Motor Company "Empowerment Through Entrepreneurship" tour, which will also visit the 2003 annual gathering of Jabez in Atlanta on July 19, in Santa Ana on October 18; Phi Delta Kappa in Las Vegas, July 24; National Urban League in Pittsburgh, July 26-30; Alpha Phi Alpha in Detroit, August 1-5; Bronner Brothers in Atlanta, August 9-11; and the National Baptist USA in Kansas City, September 8-12.
More than 27,000 African Americans to date have participated in the Ford symposiums, over the four years since their inception. The "Empowerment Through Entrepreneurship" tour kicked-off mid-April and will run through the Fall of 2003, and Ford expects to reach more than 133,000 individuals with this year's tour.