Head of diversity, equity and inclusion and communications, Continental North America
As head of diversity, equity and inclusion for Continental North America’s automotive unit, Mary Arraf is charged with helping to boost the diversity, equity and inclusion efforts of one of the world’s largest auto suppliers.
Arraf is the first person to take on the role, having moved into the position in January 2021. She is responsible for helping to lead the Conti North America automotive team on the implementation of diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives.
In the last couple years, Continental has taken on a host of new efforts, including the launch of a diversity, equity and inclusion council and advisory group, the development of partnerships to support STEM education in disadvantaged communities and the establishment of a new “floating holiday” to provide for greater religious inclusion in the company’s time-off policy.
“We have a lot of the foundations of DE&I embedded in our core values, but there needs to be accountability to make sure this is woven into everything we do,” Arraf said.
Much of Continental’s focus has been on engaging with the company’s entire work force to help them learn how to become more inclusive, to become aware of unconscious biases and to learn more about the perspectives of others, she explained.
In April, Continental shared two 1-minute videos each week highlighting the diverse perspectives of employees, including Muslim women, nonbinary people, those with disabilities and veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.
The goal is to help employees learn more about others and perhaps come to realize they are not alone.
Arraf pointed to a perspective shared by an Asian-American woman who said she felt uncomfortable with being asked where she was from, because the person asking the question often implies that she could not be from the U.S. due to the way she looks.
“I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m not alone,’” Arraf said. “I never knew how to answer that question. If you look at me, I have brown skin, dark eyes, dark hair and apparently I don’t look American, or at least that’s how I felt growing up.”
Under Arraf’s leadership, Conti’s North American automotive team has placed a special emphasis on education and mentorship. The company has partnered with the Detroit Area Pre-College Engineering Program and Wayne State University’s Engineering Preparatory Excellence Academy, allowing students to visit with the supplier and learn about the automotive industry.
“We understand that there are communities that have all the resources and robotics clubs. But there are other communities that don’t have that and don’t have the funding,” said Arraf. “How can we help fill the gap?”
— John Irwin