Crystal Davis and Her Call to Action on “Zero Racism” — Part of the #RootCauseRacism Panel

This is part of the recent webinar panel discussion titled “Sharing Our Visions and Voices to #RootCauseRacism”.

Here Crystal Davis of The Lean Coach, Inc. shares some inspiring words and call to action to extend our efforts from “Zero Defects” to “Zero Racism.”

Crystal Davis: Good afternoon. I’m Crystal Davis. I’m the CEO and founder of The Lean Coach, Inc. I also am a mother of Women in Lean, very, very proud of that. Actually, I’m coming to you from Atlanta, Georgia. I grew up in Lean in the manufacturing and supply chain arena. When I was asked to participate, there’s a lot I could say, but I thought one thing that I would share for you is just a couple of statistics, and then I’ll share my point.

Then also, I want to just acknowledge. Oh, yes, thank you. They took care of the acknowledgement of my sorority, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Mark has learned a lot about sororities already. [laughs] So anyhow. All right.

So from a manufacturing supply chain perspective, in 2016, woman make up 49 percent of the labor force, but only 29 percent of manufacturing.

The number of women in color is even smaller than that. They asked the women if they were to start over, would they start over in manufacturing? Two-thirds of the 29 percent said “yes.” The reasons that they leave are poor working relationships. Check, I’ve experienced that. Lack of promotion opportunities. Check, I’ve experienced that and lower pay. Check, I’ve experienced that.

Companies have done a lot to help women become more comfortable staying there, like offering flexible schedules, having opportunities for greater visibility, mentorship, so forth and so on. All of these things are great. But here’s where, when I started to reflect on my own career and all the challenges that I overcame and dealt with, they were all lessons for me. But here’s where I want to offer practical advice.

All of the benefits, and I called them carrots that are offered to people, are great. Unless we change the environment, it’s very difficult to invite other women, young girls who are studying STEM careers, young girls who are in college, the percentages will never change if we don’t change the environment.

I thought, OK, great. But this is a big problem. Racism is a complex issue. I thought, OK, from a Lean continuous improvement perspective, we are taught to ask great questions.

We are taught to be curious. And so when I thought about this, here’s the question that I want you all to think about.

What if we could get to zero racism? What would it look like? I thought about that because my experience in manufacturing when we were all driving one of the Big Three, and we had lots of competition from foreign auto makers, was the issue with quality. We were challenged, I remember very distinctly, we were challenged that we needed us to get to zero defects. I looked at my engineering director like he had three or four heads because I was like, where do we do that?

We were bad. I set up a 32-point inspection station because we were on containment and we still had slippage. But where, get to zero? Are you kidding me?

I thought about the power of that question, and I thought, you know what, Martin Luther King didn’t live to see some of the things that we now have experienced. John Lewis, who just passed, we still fight for voting rights. He didn’t get to live to see that.

I think about my ancestors and the people who were in slavery, who didn’t get to live a free life. I thought, it may be preposterous, it may be big, I may not live to see it, but if we take one step toward it, and continue to move toward it the same way that we move towards zero defects, that’s how we got Six Sigma, the same way.

If we took that attitude and took that approach, that we need to change the environment one small step at a time, be curious, ask great questions the timing what you can do, no matter how big or how small. That’s all I got to say.

Mark Graban: Somebody just commented, “I could listen to Crystal all day.” So you said, that’s all you’ve got to say, that was beautiful, and I’m sure there’s more, and we’ll draw you into more of the discussion.

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