D&I at a Pivotal Point in Time

5 Minutes with Sandra Phillips Rogers

Rogers has many roles, but in a year marked by historic change, none is more critical than her role as a diversity officer.

Phillips Rogers is group vice president, chief legal officer, general counsel, and corporate secretary of Toyota Motor North America (TMNA). She also chairs the TMNA Management Committee and is a member of Toyota’s global leadership team. But her role as chief diversity officer for TMNA comes in the age of COVID-19 and amid the biggest groundswell for equality since the civil rights movement. “I’m just honored and humbled to be the chief diversity officer at this particular moment in time,” she says. Phillips Roger spoke with Diversity Woman about the role of D&I at this inflection point in history.

Diversity Woman: How has your legal background influenced your work in diversity?
Sandra Phillips Rogers: The legal profession is probably one of the least diverse professions, and it has been for a long time. As a lawyer, I can say that I feel a specific and personal burden to try to do what I can to make progress here because that really is the founding principle of our country—justice and equality for all. I think I and other lawyers have a platform to bring about change.

DW: Tell me about what Toyota is doing to increase the number of women in STEM careers.
SPR: As technology continues to rapidly advance, STEM jobs are going to become increasingly important and in demand, and those jobs tend to pay more. That’s important to building robust communities, especially communities of color.
We’re working with the National Alliance for Partnerships and Equity. We recently kicked off a new campaign with them called Make the Future to encourage young women to pursue advanced manufacturing. We also partner with organizations like Girls Who Code to support e-learning. Another partnership is with the Federation for Advanced Manufacturing Education.

DW: Toyota has received 13 consecutive perfect scores on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index. What are some of the company’s initiatives to create an LGBTQ+ inclusive culture?
SPR: Respect for people is at the core of what we do, and we encourage team members to bring their full selves to work.
Beyond that, we have been offering domestic partner benefits since 2002. We’ve also expanded tax benefits, adoption support, and transgender-inclusive benefits. June is Pride month, and for the last few years, we’ve been raising the Pride flag during that month at locations in North America.

DW: Do companies have a responsibility to address this year’s social injustice protests and incorporate lessons from them into their D&I strategies?
SPR: The social injustice unrest that we’ve seen and the movement that’s come about as a consequence of it have inspired us all to think, listen, and engage in honest and deep conversations about how we’re going to really eliminate racism and move to a more equitable society. For companies like Toyota that have been investing in social justice and racial equality for many years, now is the time to try to reimagine what we’re doing and redouble efforts. Corporate America is an invaluable voice to have at the table along with activists, lawmakers, and others who have been moving these issues forward. I think we’re all realizing this is our “dare to be great moment” where we’ve all got to step up and do what’s necessary to make lasting change.

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