Personal Perspective

In address to Human Rights Campaign conference, CIO Zack Hicks attests to Toyota’s respect for LGBTQ people

May 02, 2017

A Welcome Opportunity -- TMNA CIO Zack Hicks shares his Toyota story with some 2,000 attendees at the Human Rights Campaign's "Time to Thrive" conference in Washington, D.C.

It’s one thing for Toyota to say that “respect for people” is a core value. It’s quite another to actually operate in alignment with that belief.
 
Zack Hicks is living proof that – when it comes to respecting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) people – the company not only talks the talk, but also walks the walk.
 
“When Toyota hired me 20 years ago, even back then, I knew this was a place where I would fit in because I could bring my whole self to work,” said Toyota Motor North America’s senior vice president and chief information officer, and CEO of Toyota Connected. “I feel valued here for who I am, not just professionally but personally as well.”

‘Time to Thrive’
 
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) invited Hicks to address the approximately 2,000 teachers, counselors, coaches, mental health professionals and more who participated in the organization’s third annual “Time to Thrive” conference in Washington, D.C., last week.
 
HRC, founded in 1980, is recognized as the leading advocate for LGBTQ rights. Its more than 1.5 million members and supporters envision a world where LGBTQ people are embraced as full members of society at home, at work and in every community.
 
Toyota, along with AT&T, served as a presenting sponsor of the conference – building on support from Lexus and Toyota Financial Services of HRC regional galas in New York, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C.


In Solidarity -- Chad Griffin (right), president of the HRC, pauses for a photo with Zack Hicks during the conference.

What Drives You
 
But it was Hicks’ personal perspective – shared along with fellow speakers such as U.S. Sen. Al Franken, New York Times columnist Charles Blow and journalist and author Katie Couric – that put a human face on Toyota’s commitment to the cause.
 
“At Toyota, we know that respect for people is good for the workplace, the marketplace and society,” said Hicks, who has helped spearhead the company’s efforts to drive innovation and encourage cross-departmental problem solving. “We have the experience and evidence to prove that the best ideas come when everyone feels valued and respected at work.”

Going a step further, Hicks stressed that Toyota sees itself as not just a car company but a mobility company.
 
“And mobility means more than focusing on what you drive,” he said. “For us, it also means understanding what drives you. Our youth have dreams and the talent to get where they want to go. But sometimes, just getting through adolescence is an all-consuming task – made even more complicated if you identify as LGBTQ. That’s why we’re here: to support all of you who are looking out for the health and rights and dreams of LGBTQ youth.”
 
Hicks acknowledged that providing such support wasn’t entirely altruistic on Toyota’s part. After all, as he noted, a recent Harris Poll found that 20 percent of millennials identify as LGBTQ.
 
“That’s a segment of the workforce you can bet we want to attract,” he said. “So in a way, I’m recruiting today. When the kids you work with are looking for a job, please share with them my experience. Toyota is a terrific place to work.
 
“Thank you for what you are doing to help these kids,” he concluded. “You are here because you care and you want to make a difference. And you are.”
 
By Dan Miller

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