Creating an Environment that Encourages Cognitive Diversity
In a remarkable interview with The HR Digest, Felicia Mayo talks about the value of cognitive diversity in the global business sector and what makes a great leader. “The ability to inspire, motivate and create followership is nirvana,” she says. “When you have a leader that exhibits this strength, that leader can rally employees towards the impossible.” As a prominent influencer of diversity, the Vice President of HR and Diversity & Inclusion at Tesla has made a magnificent contribution to paving the way to a diverse boardroom.
The HR Digest: Tesla is the only company in Silicon Valley to have bucked the trend of appointing mostly men to a place of power, i.e. its board of directors. But for many companies in the region, this is still a novel idea. Has your advocacy helped inspire other companies to grow and develop this stream of diversity?
Felicia Mayo: I wish I could take credit for us bucking the trend. My team was very instrumental in executing on our developed strategy to ensure that Tesla integrates diversity into the business at all levels. Any decision made was based on the business at hand and the experience that was required to further drive innovation. The representation of females on the board and leadership shows our focus and commitment to integrating diversity into the business overall.
The HR Digest: What measure(s) did you take with your team to ensure that Tesla’s global corporate company culture would reflect its D&I goals? Can you give a specific example?
Felicia Mayo: Innovation is the key to our company and is at the center of our Diversity and Inclusion goals. From that perspective, allowing Tesla employees, regardless of their demographic, to feel a part of the success, linked to the mission of the company, and connected to the strategy and the future of the company, is very important.
An Interview with Tesla’s Felicia Mayo
Overall, the first step taken was to observe the environment and the culture to better understand what enhancements were needed. We then proceeded to build a strategy that met the specific needs of the organization and further drove innovation. We have been executing on that strategy by closely partnering with different parts of the business and global leadership.
The HR Digest: As Tesla’s Chief Diversity Officer and Vice President of HR, how do you place particular emphasis on cognitive diversity, i.e. diverse perspectives, experiences, and contributions, within your sphere of responsibility?
Felicia Mayo: We value and balance visible diversity and cognitive diversity because it’s important to have a variety of different kinds of thinkers, problem solvers, designers, and leaders. We’re doing things that have never been done before because as an industry leader, we must always have innovation at the core. Diversity drives innovation. The beauty of innovation is that you have all different perspectives represented when solving problems. We’re looking for people who can come in and make an immediate and critical impact, regardless of experience, education level, and background. If you are motivated, are passionate about our mission, and are driven to make a difference, Tesla is the place for you.
I see my sphere as global and across the company. Diversity and Inclusion is not a program, it is a part of the business. I am a business leader.
The HR Digest: What do you see as the greatest leadership strength?
Felicia Mayo: The ability to inspire, motivate and create followership. This is nirvana. When you have a leader that exhibits this strength, that leader can rally employees towards the impossible.
The HR Digest: What do you consider your most rewarding experience in professional life?
Felicia Mayo: My most rewarding experience in professional life was and is being able to integrate my family into my professional career. They have been along the journey by learning about the technology companies I have worked for, even to the point of being selected to be in a company video. I am totally the cool mom working at Tesla while driving a Tesla. Integration has always been key in my household, and it is my way of exposing them to STEM.
This article was published in the April 2019 issue of The HR Digest magazine.
Felicia Mayo | VP, HR, Diversity & Inclusion, Tesla
Felicia Mayo is chief diversity officer and Vice President of HR at Tesla. She is an experienced HR executive, and an expert in Diversity & Inclusion, Talent Acquisition, Executive Partnership and Change Leadership.