Jennifer Gudgel, 48
Global director, diversity, equity and inclusion, BorgWarner
Editor's note: An earlier version of this story misquoted Jennifer Gudgel. The quote at the end of the story has been corrected.
In her newly created position at BorgWarner Inc., the top item on Jennifer Gudgel's to-do list, by the end of the first quarter of 2022, is to form task forces of employee volunteers for various DE&I initiatives and create a plan to roll out programs across the supplier's U.S. locations.
Gudgel said grassroots involvement at each location is a priority.
"For us at BorgWarner, we're a decentralized operating model," she told Automotive News. "We want decisions made at the local level. We want ownership of those ideas to feed up to the rest of the organization," as opposed to a top-down approach, she said.
The employee task forces are intended to identify best practices and share them across the company.
Two areas that are works in progress:
1. Expanding relationships with historically Black colleges and universities, with an emphasis on recruiting.
2. Allowing "second-chance" recruitment applicants who are at a disadvantage because of past interactions with the courts.
"We think of it more as, the term is, 'justice-involved' individuals," Gudgel said. "It doesn't necessarily mean someone was incarcerated. There can still be some pretty bad consequences, even if you were never incarcerated. It can really have an effect on someone's life."
BorgWarner, headquartered in Auburn Hills, Mich., has 26 locations in the U.S., including technical centers and manufacturing facilities, which are part of a total of 96 locations in 23 countries.
Gudgel is still relatively new to the company. She joined in December 2018, with a background primarily in human resources and related specialties, most recently with food giant Mars Inc. for 14 years.
"Diversity has been a part of my work since I've been in HR — it has to be. Diversity, inclusion, talent development, succession planning, early-talent programs, all of those have diversity built into it," she said.
BorgWarner says Gudgel's new job, which she started in October, is the first leadership position in the company focused specifically on DE&I. Before that, she was director, global talent and organizational development.
The company named Gudgel its representative in the CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion program. Its sponsors are more than 150 CEOs and their companies, including BorgWarner CEO Frederic Lissalde.
Within the program, Gudgel participated in a one-year fellowship called CEO Action for Racial Equity. It involved online training, projects and research on public policies and regulations aimed at achieving racial equity.
"There was a ton of learning. We were coming in, from a businesspeople perspective, and realizing there were people who have been doing this work for their entire lives," Gudgel said.
Questions to be answered around the company include: "How do we become more educated at the issues we're looking at?" she said. "How do we elevate the work of the people on the ground, who may have been doing this for years, decades?"
— Jim Henry