Grace Huang, 46
If promoting diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace, school or society in general makes some people uncomfortable, Grace Huang believes they should "get comfortable being uncomfortable" and do it anyway.
Huang, a daughter of immigrants from Taiwan and Hong Kong, is president of auction giant Manheim, a unit of Cox Automotive, which is owned by Cox Enterprises.
She's also an advocate for diversity, equity and inclusion and the executive co-sponsor of Cox's Lotus Asian American Pacific Islander Employee Resource Group. Lotus is one of 11 employee resource groups at Cox that provide a platform for people of common backgrounds and cultures to network. The groups also lead and support culturally sensitive open-forum discussions that are open to all Cox employees.
Huang emerged as a diversity and inclusion leader in 2020 in response to widespread social unrest and reports of anti-Asian hate incidents in the U.S. She has hosted several diversity and inclusion workshops and discussions for Cox employees.
One such gathering came on the heels of a March 2021 shooting rampage at three Atlanta-area spas that left eight people dead, including six women of Asian descent. The murders rattled members of the community in general but were particularly disquieting to people of Asian descent.
"After the spa shootings we had several conversations that were well attended by people of all races," she said. "People were just trying to make sense of the whole thing — [asking] why?"
While Huang is passionate about taking a leadership role on diversity and inclusion, speaking up hasn't always been easy for her.
Growing up in the Raleigh-Durham area of North Carolina, her parents taught her to do her best in school, ignore disparaging comments and taunts about Asian Americans and "go along to get along," she said.
As a student at the University of North Carolina, she was involved in Asian American activism. But in the workplace, she was so focused on "trying to integrate myself into the culture, which was still largely white males," she had not done everything she could promote diversity, she said.
Then Huang read the book White Fragility in summer 2020. It reminded her that it was time to speak up, she said.
"I needed to be a voice, not just for myself but for people of color," Huang said. "Cox made it a really safe place to do that."
— Arlena Sawyers