Walser CHRO Sherry Schultz on Empathy, Diversity at Work
Photography by Krystal Softich
Walser Automotive Group’s Chief Human Resources Officer Sherry Schultz wasn’t afraid to get personal about the details of her journey into the human resources profession. In a recent article by Profile Magazine, Schultz said the root of her empathy understanding was formed at a young age.
Schultz, who is Jewish, recalled with Profile a moment as a young child in which she noticed tattooed numbers on the forearm of a man next to her in temple. She was attending with her grandfather, whom she asked about the tattoo, and he explained the Holocaust.
“After that, I vowed to myself, and still continually do, to always respect the journey of others, to always seek to understand, to remind myself that I do not know anyone else’s journey or culture without living it, and to always listen to others’ stories,” Schultz told Profile. “It’s almost like then, in my eight-year-old brain, my HR mind was formed.”
Schultz came to Walser, an automotive dealer group headquartered in Minneapolis / St. Paul, in 2018. With her, she brought a long tenure of experience in the field of HR from her time at corporations like the Sears Holding Corporation, Goodyear Tire & Rubber, and Pepsico. Irrespective of the industry, her passion for leading with empathy and understanding has transferred throughout her career.
Upon her arrival at Walser, Schultz understood the importance of diversity and inclusion work in the automotive industry. Through employee surveying within the company, Schultz quickly identified the need for more support in two key areas—gender diversity and LGBTQ support. Under her leadership, two Employee Resources Groups (ERG) were formed.
Women of Walser (WoW) was born in 2018. The group is focused on the recruitment, retention, and ascension of women into Walser and the automotive industry. Its members support Walser employees through areas of business development, personal development, and community outreach, and volunteerism. Likewise, Drive With Pride (DWP) was formed a year later in 2019. DWP is dialed in on Walser’s LGBTQIA+ employees and customers. The group specifically supports employees through advocacy and allyship, education, and community outreach.
By The Numbers
Although women are almost half of the U.S. labor force, they represent fewer than one-quarter of the automotive workforce, according to a study by Catalyst. That same study breaks it down further, showing that in 2019, women represented just 17.9% of automobile dealer employees and less than 10% of automotive repair and maintenance employees.
The numbers trend even lower for people who identify as LGBTQ. While representation numbers in the automotive industry are difficult to pinpoint, 1 in 4 LGBTQ people reported discrimination in 2016, according to a study by the Center for American Progress.
As Schultz continues her work at Walser to better support all employees, Schultz told Profile that diversity in both thought and action should be the main driver for any leader.
“Diversity is informed by the culmination of our life experiences up to that moment, and I think that also informs my leadership style,” she said. “… I genuinely feel that the leader I am today is vastly different to the leader I was twenty years ago, and that’s a good thing!”
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Walser Automotive Group operates 26 retail locations featuring major and luxury brands throughout Minnesota and Kansas. Walser is committed about giving back to the communities in which its employees live and work. Walser commits 5 percent of all pre-tax earnings to the Walser Foundation annually to support local nonprofit education and workforce development initiatives.