The movement that began in the streets of Minneapolis, St. Louis and other cities quickly spread to corporate boardrooms, challenging the auto industry to look closer at inclusiveness, equity and diversity in its ranks. Automakers responded with a slew of statements condemning racial injustice in the days after Floyd's May 25, 2020, death, and pledged to take action in their own ways.
A year later, it appears many have followed through on their words and are continuing to build on the energy that grew from the protests.
Some manufacturers formed diversity boards and fostered conversations with employees about racial iniquities in society. Others looked at how they could diversify spending in the industry's immense supply chain and donated to various groups that push for equality.
Hiring more people from underrepresented groups is only one piece; the culture within companies, manufacturers say, must be conducive to these employees' growth once they get there.
Lori Costew, Ford Motor Co.'s chief diversity officer and director of people strategy, said the automaker knew it had "employees in pain" after Floyd's murder.
She said Ford found that some workers didn't feel they belonged, which led to what the company called the most comprehensive diversity, equity and inclusion audit in its history.
Costew said scientific research has found that the brain processes exclusion in the same area as physical pain. So the lack of belonging some employees reported, she said, could negatively impact the body and hurt performance in the long run.
"We started in the U.S., leveraging all sorts of data," Costew said. "Qualitative data, quantitative data and we did a lot of deep ethnography to understand, what are the unique barriers faced by women and underrepresented employees at Ford? And then, most importantly, what are we doing about it?"