Cardwell, 53, spoke with Staff Reporter David Muller on her background and CarMax's DE&I and social justice initiatives. Here are edited excerpts.
Q: Tell us about yourself.
A: I've worked with hundreds of companies on their [diversity and inclusion] strategies and programs, and many of them were Fortune 500 companies. I've advised leaders in many sectors including finance, automotive, health care, retail and the tech sector. And when I really think about this work — [diversity and inclusion] — I'm very passionate about it. It is very personal to me, very important to me.
And as an LGBT member, I understand the importance of inclusion, equity and the sense of belonging.
And I'm a firm believer that we can only reach our full potential as people and professionals and as a business, creating a culture where the sense of belonging is really at the center of everything that we do.
Is there anything particularly striking you have noticed about auto retail compared with other sectors?
I don't think anything specific to the automotive industry or sector in general.
I think that there's an opportunity for most, if not all, organizations to really concentrate in this space.
I wouldn't say it's specific to auto. And my background is really working in multiple industries. And it's pretty consistent across all sectors. There's an opportunity to focus here.
What are some of the initiatives you're implementing?
At CarMax we really believe that education and awareness are the beginning of change. And we've taken a number of actionable steps related to [diversity and inclusion] this year specifically. Some of those include launching a multiyear diversity and inclusion strategy and action plan. This is a collaborative effort through our governance structure for how we're set up as an organization.
We've launched a comprehensive diversity and inclusion training portfolio and resource library. And this provides access to [diversity and inclusion] tools, news and upcoming events for the associate population.
We have quarterly foundational training topics. And those topics include unconscious bias, empathy, allyship — and these are required training for all CarMax associates, including our board of directors. Another that I'd mention is that we really believe in initiating an open dialogue, even thinking about the current climate. We know this is so critical.
So we provided our leaders with [diversity and inclusion] discussion guides to really support team conversations, and encourage associates to participate, share their perspective. And we have found that these dialogues have been a huge success for us, as we strengthen really our work force and our communities by challenging our own perspectives, and then embracing the differences of others.
Has anything changed in what you do given the social unrest following the murder of George Floyd?
CarMax as an organization has always been committed to diversity and inclusion. But after the murder of George Floyd, we recognized that we must do better as a company and as a country. We took a strong stance against racial injustice, pledging $1 million to organizations that promote fairness and inclusion.
And we also determined that we could make the most meaningful impact by focusing and really promoting equitable access to economic opportunities in our communities nationwide, because these are the communities that we serve, and at CarMax we're focusing our philanthropic efforts really on four key areas: education, careers, entrepreneurship and access to credit and financial education.