March 4, 2022

Creating a DEI engine: A Q&A with Toyota

toyota dei

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Founded in 1937, the iconic Toyota brand is recognized around the world. The company continues to achieve high standards of innovation, manufacturing, and sustainable development through one critical element at its core: its people. 

We spoke with Joanne Romano, who has been with the company for more than 25 years, to see what’s under the hood – so to speak! – and learn about all the exciting ways Toyota is championing DEI. 

Joanne shares her career development, starting as an English teacher, to her current role as Senior Manager, Human Resources, in the People and Business Development Division all with Toyota. Her story is a great reflection of all the ways you can grow, both personally and professionally, with a global company. 

Q: Tell us about your role, Joanne! 

A: I’m responsible for delivering our HR policies, processes, and function across TMCA (Toyota Motor Corporation Australia). This includes remuneration, systems and payroll, global assignments, health and wellbeing, work cover, HR business partners services, employee relations and more. 

Q: What was your pathway to your current role? 

A: I’ve been privileged to have received enormous career development working with one of the world’s most trusted, longstanding brands. I started as a contractor as an “English in the Workplace Teacher”, supporting shopfloor employees with limited English in their industry training certificates. 

I quickly joined the HR team and have had tonnes of varied roles in HR – from being an HR Systems Manager, implementing a new HRMIS, to an Employee Relations Manager. I’ve also represented Toyota in negotiating enterprise agreements with large industry unions and the Fair Work Commission. (More on that later!) 

Toyota DEI

While I’ve remained in HR, I’ve worked throughout all areas in this specialized field. This has been across 25 years while raising two children, completing my Masters in Business in Human Resources and Industrial Relations, traveling extensively (for business and leisure), and even finding time to hone my cooking skills. I’ve loved every minute! 

One of my favorite parts of my job is developing new HR initiatives and policies to improve the wellbeing of our people. 

Q: What were your first impressions of Toyota when you started? 

A: I was overwhelmed by the genuine care and support I received. My managers and colleagues were interested in my career development. They’ve always been there to guide me and help me learn. I knew I’d found an organization that lived its values! 

Q: Tell us about some of the opportunities you’ve received at Toyota? 

A: I’ve had many opportunities to travel overseas, including to Japan, Thailand, the US, and Canada for Toyota. 

I’ve visited many overseas manufacturing plants for HR benchmarking activities to learn best practices, understand the Toyota Way in HR, and attend the US women’s conference on several occasions.  

After representing Toyota at the Fair Work Commission, Commissioner Gay invited me and others from the Union to speak at an Industrial Relations Conference in Cambodia. I spoke with Cambodian employers about my experience in workplace negotiations and enterprise bargaining. 

Q: It’s a good thing then that you love traveling! You also shared you have a few other passions outside of work. 

A: Yes, I love to travel, especially to islands. I love cooking for my family and dining out. I don’t look like someone who could clean fish – but I enjoy fishing and boating too! 

Q: Toyota has made some great strides since 2021. What were some of the pain points you were hoping to tackle? 

A: We ran our first TMCA Women’s Conference in 2018. It was a huge success. We were creating a swell of momentum for change in our organization in diversity and inclusion. The challenge was using this momentum to take action and bring people with us to create sustainable change. 

We wanted to ensure everyone understood the benefits of a diverse workforce. Because it’s not just the right thing to do – it’s good for business! 

We changed our priorities, launching practical initiatives, such as: 

  • A mentorship and sponsorship program for women 
  • Introducing gender neutral policies; and 
  • Improving our parental leave policy 

We also created action teams to facilitate DEI throughout all levels of the business. We have volunteers championing equity in all areas, including Gender Equality, Disability, Indigenous Affairs and LGBTQI+. 

Learn more about Toyota’s employee-led diversity groups, leadership in gender equality and other benefits and policies. 

Check out their other great benefits and policies.

Q: What type of initiatives did these action teams undertake? 

A: We’ve been running these initiatives for just under a year. Each group is comprised of seven volunteers. They report to a DEI council, of which I’m a member. We provide them with direction and approve a budget for their initiatives. 

Some examples of the initiatives we’ve worked on include starting on a Reflect Reconciliation Action Plan and completing a disability audit of our facilities. 

Q: How are these initiatives improving DEI and making Toyota a unique and desirable workplace for women? 

A: By involving employees who are passionate about these topics, we’re building a culture of DEI at a grassroots level. Everything we do has a DEI lens to create a culture of belonging. We want DEI to be part of who we are and how we make people feel about our brand and our workplace. 

Q: What has it meant to you, personally, to see these initiatives implemented? 

A: I feel obligated to pay back the support, coaching and development opportunities I’ve been so privileged to have throughout my career by investing in DEI at every opportunity.

My goal is to make a difference to the next generation, whether it be mentoring a colleague, supporting a DEI initiative, developing a new policy, or championing a new process. I aim to lead by example and do what I can with the responsibility I’ve been given. 

Q: What initiatives do you have planned for 2022, and why are you focusing on these areas? 

A: In 2022, belonging and wellbeing have become more important than ever, especially after 18 months of remote work. Social connections and interactions in the workplace are so needed. 

Our focus in 2022 is on how to safely balance the ‘best way’ to work and maximize belonging with individual needs for flexible work. 

If you’re interested in working with a global company that cares about DEI and creating a sense of belonging, start your engines with Toyota. 

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About the Author
Jacynta Clayton’s career started in recruitment advertising and employer branding, working with global clients to create and deploy strategic and creative content. Now she combines her industry experience with the knowledge from her psychology and professional writing degrees to write unique and resounding stories. As a WORK180 storyteller she relishes the opportunity to elevate the voices and experiences of so many amazing people, while also empowering and educating audiences on how to choose a workplace where they can thrive.

Looking for a new opportunity?

Our transparent job board only has vacancies from employers we endorse and lets you see what benefits, policies and perks come with the job. Check out the latest job vacancies with Toyota