Op-Ed: Our Commitment to Change by Leading with Action

Recently, I committed to our team members and the city of Detroit that the Rock Family of Companies would be an active leader in addressing racial inequity, police brutality and inclusion. I was honored to join Rev. Dr. Wendell Anthony, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and eight other CEOs from across the city – all of whom made similar commitments on behalf of their respective organizations and team members.

In my remarks, I announced that we were developing a six-point plan in the wake of the murder of George Floyd and other recent events of systemic racism – because the lives of our Black team members, residents of Detroit and all Black lives matter.

Today, I am laying out our plan, but more importantly, the underlying commitment it entails. As the largest employer in the largest Black city in America, and because of the For More Than Profit philosophy driven by our founder and chairman Dan Gilbert, it is imperative that we are an active leader in effecting change within our organization as well as driving meaningful, systemic reforms outside of it.

As a husband and a father, I want to do everything I can to help shape a world I can be proud of. That my children can be proud of. As a business leader, these last couple months have been as transformative as they have been difficult. I’ve learned more than at any point in my life about just how far we have to go as a society.

For the Rock Family of Companies, I am hopeful this plan will serve as another step in the right direction.

First, we are intentionally enhancing our ability to attract, engage and hire diverse talent. We will continue to partner with HBCUs and organizations like Urban Alliance. More than relationships, we are having real self-reflection internally to ensure that every aspect of our hiring process is free of any bias.

Second, we are engaging with our team members and encouraging them to express concerns, frustrations, feelings and recommendations to leaders without fear of reprisal. We are facilitating town halls, have dedicated team member resource networks and are providing other opportunities so that we can continue to learn from each other.

Third, we are auditing our leadership development processes to ensure that our team members of color have equitable access to trainings and pathways to leadership. The Rock Family of Companies’ biggest strength is our team members and the diverse viewpoints they bring – those varied perspectives must be present at every level of our organization.

Fourth, the Rock Family of Companies is leveraging its culture and scale to lobby for systemic policy change in support of racial equity at the local, state and national levels. When the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development recently proposed a policy that would make proving discrimination in housing more difficult, Quicken Loans Vice Chairman Bill Emerson wrote a letter to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development encouraging them to reconsider their proposal and leave existing protections in place. This is just the beginning of our efforts to ensure we are removing hurdles to equality and opening the doors to opportunity.

Fifth, we are expanding our engagement with the Detroit Police Department (DPD) and fostering transparent dialogue with key stakeholders and the community. DPD Chief Craig recently joined our Chief Security Officer Chuck Wilson and me for a virtual townhall with our team members, where we discussed policing, proposals for reforms and other difficult subjects. Opportunities like this are important because it allows us to advocate for change as well as be active participants in the process.

Finally – and why I’m sharing this here – is that we are communicating this commitment so we can be transparent with, and accountable to, our 30,000 team members, our clients and our community.

Saying “Black lives matter” simply is not enough. We need to hold one another accountable in this pursuit of racial equity, and acknowledge that we will only succeed if we stand together.

We hope this plan, in conjunction with our historical diversity and inclusion efforts in housing stability, entrepreneurship, education and mentorship, employment and more will drive impactful change here in our hometown of Detroit and across the country.

I invite all businesses across the country to set a course of action that will be the impetus for change that is far overdue in our country.

We will stand beside you.

Jay Farner

CEO, Rock Family of Companies

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