Don Romano, 61
CEO, Hyundai Canada
Many executives talk the talk when it comes to diversity, equity and inclusion, but Hyundai Canada CEO Don Romano is one who also walks the walk.
Romano has spearheaded Hyundai Canada's DE&I push in recent years. Under his leadership, the company has partnered with colleges and universities to provide scholarships for Black and female students interested in the automotive industry, overhauled its employee recruitment strategy and made it a major priority to make its leadership team more diverse.
"Our executive ranks are not going to look anything like they look today," Romano told Automotive News Canada last year. "They're going to look more like what our customer base looks like, which isn't a bunch of old white guys like me."
Romano, who has led Hyundai Canada since 2014, has set up scholarships with the Automotive Business School of Canada in Barrie, Ontario, to provide $2,500 scholarships for a Black and a female student every year, in addition to providing $1,000 in tuition for any student there who identifies as Black or indigenous.
As head of Hyundai Canada's diversity advisory group, Romano has added "formal, measurable" DE&I metrics to performance reviews for the company's executive team.
The company also now interviews at least two diverse candidates when interviewing for an open position, and if that requirement is not met, a report outlining "areas of opportunity" for improvement in the hiring process must be filed to Romano, according to Hyundai Canada.
The automaker has made substantial progress. For example, Hyundai Canada said it has seen a 40 percent increase in women in management roles since 2019.
But Romano is not satisfied, particularly as it relates to the company's dealer body. Romano said the company has a goal of adding more people of color to the Hyundai Canada network, particularly as many longtime dealers retire or exit the industry.
"No one is going to tell me that there aren't aspiring young Black entrepreneurs that would be phenomenal dealers to help us move into the future," Romano said.
— John Irwin