Our diversity, our strength: Recognizing World Autism Day

Chris Sowers and his family recognize World Autism Day

To celebrate and bring awareness to World Autism Day on April 2, Chris Sowers, EBU Operational Engineering, shares his perspective on why this day is close to his heart and the importance of providing people with Autism Spectrum Disorder the tools they need to succeed in a truly diverse, equitable and inclusive environment.

It was a Sunday in February 2018 and my family and I were out having an early dinner before heading home to watch the big game. All three of our boys were excited, as they were just getting old enough to really enjoy big events like this. The waitress interrupted our chatter as she came to take our order. 

“So, who’s going to win tonight?” she asked, while collecting our menus. 

All of us gave our predictions. Well, all of us except our youngest son Gabe, who was eight years old at the time. “And what about you, young man? Who’s going to win?” she asked.

Gabe looked at her, puzzled. The rest of us tried to help. 

“Gabe tell her who’s going to win the Super Bowl tonight,” I prompted.  

“The Eagles or the Patriots?” my wife asked him. Gabe continued to stare, unsure how to respond.

Another employee was cleaning a nearby table, listening. 

“Hey buddy,” he said. “Who do you think is going to win tonight?” He placed special emphasis on the word, think.

“The Patriots,” Gabe immediately responded.

The man looked at me and winked. “Sometimes it’s all in how you ask the question,” he said.

It was a brilliant reminder for us. 

Like many people on the autism spectrum, Gabe often operates at his best when information is presented to him in a certain way. He’s extremely literal. He couldn’t possibly know who was going to win the game; that wasn’t the right question. But he sure could tell us who he thought was going to win. See the difference?

Asking the right question enabled him to fully engage in the conversation.

Gabe is blessed with some amazing superpowers. He can memorize all the dialogue from a 30-minute television show after just one viewing and repeats it nearly word-for-word several days later. He can tell you the make and model of every elevator in every hotel we’ve stayed in since he was four years old, not to mention which floor we stayed on. Along with a variety of other skills Gabe possesses, his attention to detail and ability to retain information is truly remarkable. 

But, to help unlock this information, you need to ask the right question.

As the dad of an autistic child, I want nothing more than for him to be happy, accepted for who he is and to have the opportunities to fulfill his incredible potential. I worry about his future and about him finding his place in the world. New information on Autism Spectrum Disorder only furthers this concern. Last year, the CDC published new data that approximately 1 in 54 children in the U.S. are diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. Additionally, 85% of adults on the autism spectrum are underemployed. That’s a tremendous amount of untapped potential and unutilized superpowers.  

I strongly believe there is a place in this world for these abilities. We need unique thinkers like my son Gabe to enable a truly diverse, equitable and inclusive environment. I see first-hand the difference it makes to give Gabe the tools he needs to be successful. 

At Cummins, we believe Diversity and Inclusion are about recognizing and valuing our differences and using those differences to deliver superior results. It's about genuinely valuing the perspectives and experiences of all people, not regardless of their differences but because of their differences. Diversity and Inclusion is an opportunity for advantage. I believe there is not only a place, but also a need for individuals with autism and other differences and disabilities to one day take their unique skills into the workforce.

I want Cummins to be a place where neurodivergence is encouraged to shine. I want all of us, across differences to have the opportunity to bring our full selves to work and contribute to our highest potential. That’s why I’ve gotten involved in our Inclusion of Neurodiversity initiative. Autism is just one of many elements of neurodiversity like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dyslexia, dyspraxia, among others. At Cummins, we have a long and proud history of fostering diversity of thought, unique creativity, and innovation. Neurodiversity goes hand-in-hand with this history. 

We’re building the foundation of this initiative now, starting with the fundamentals and looking for ways to bring our workplace to a common understanding of what neurodiversity means and how it can manifest at work. From there we plan to launch projects aimed at increasing inclusion of our current and future neurodiverse workforce.  

For more information on autism and other elements of neurodiversity, please check out the following resources: 

Together we can make Cummins a truly neuro-inclusive environment and a great place to work, for everyone.

Chris Sowers

Joining Cummins in 2002, Chris now manages a group of engineers and team leaders responsible for power cylinder development on new engine programs.

"The right to vote is the essence of a democratic society"

people line up and wait to vote

Cummins supports the Business Roundtable’s recent statement on the importance of voting and we agree “the right to vote is the essence of a democratic society.”  

Tom Linebarger, Cummins Chairman and CEO
Tom Linebarger, Chairman and CEO, Cummins Inc. 

We are active in, and support, efforts to advance voter accessibility and to make this fundamental right more broadly available. We are stronger as a nation when more people vote and are engaged in the civic process. We believe efforts to restrict voting access are discriminatory, largely aimed at our Black and brown citizens, and have no place in the inclusive communities we are committed to building.  

We stand today as advocates for inclusion and equity, as we did in 1963 when our then CEO J. Irwin Miller supported Martin Luther King Jr.’s March on Washington.

We have a proud and long history of advocacy for those who are marginalized and oppressed, and we will continue to speak out on their behalf. Diversity, equity and inclusion make our communities stronger and more vibrant. We call on elected officials – at the federal, state and local levels – to advance efforts to provide greater voting access. We also call on leaders of companies and communities in every state around the country to do their part to make it clear that we will not tolerate discriminatory voting practices.

Voting is a core civil rights issue, and we have been engaged in this battle far too long. We will not stop until voting is accessible to all people in our country. Anything less diminishes our democracy. 
 

Tom Linebarger Chairman and CEO

Tom Linebarger

Tom Linebarger became Chairman and CEO of Cummins Inc., the largest independent maker of diesel engines and related products in the world, on January 1, 2012.  Prior to becoming Chairman and CEO, he served as President and COO from 2008 to 2011, Executive Vice President and President, Power Generation Business from 2003 to 2008, Vice President and Chief Financial Officer from 2000 to 2003, and Vice President, Supply Chain Management from 1998 to 2000.

Saluting the Black family throughout Black History Month

Saluting the Black family throughout Black History Month
"To celebrate Black History Month this year, I encourage you to honor your colleagues, your friends and your neighbors who make up Black families." - Carolyn Butler-Lee, pictured here with her husband, Larry, and their son, Solomon.

The following was authored by Carolyn Butler-Lee, Executive Director, Global Strategy - Diversity & Inclusion, Cummins Inc. 

When I hear the word family, I think about my husband Larry of 32 years and our 20-year-old son Solomon. I think about my mother who cherishes her garden and my father, a strong provider, who passed away 25 years ago. I think about my six siblings who are dispersed throughout the country. I think about my aunts and uncles who defy aging. I think about my gazillion cousins, nieces and nephews who make family reunions memorable.

This is my family.

For Black History Month this year, Cummins Black Network (CBN) – our Employee Resource Group (ERG) – adopted the national theme, "The Black Family: Representation, Identity, and Diversity."  This theme sparked me to humbly smile about my family – the potent ingredient that makes me who I am and who I can become. Unconditional love and unwavering loyalty define us.

That is my family. 

When I hear the word family, I also think more broadly about the Black American Family - proud, determined, resilient and challenged. The Black Family in America has suffered tremendously since slavery when families were first torn apart in Africa only to be further torn apart in America when repeatedly sold or traded. Today, over 150 years after emancipation, the Black family faces many struggles, lagging other racial and ethnic groups with respect to home ownership, health, education, wealth and employment, and outpacing others with respect to racial disparities in the criminal justice system.

My collective family struggles.

Carolyn Butler-Lee - Cummins Inc. - Black History Month 2021
"When I think about family...I think about my six siblings who are dispersed throughout the country." - Carolyn Butler-Lee

The Black Family persists even still. While it has taken on many new forms and shapes, the Black family has made more than due with what little has been provided, pivoting as needed to land further than projected.

Descendants of slaves have become leaders in every sector. Women-led households have nurtured presidents and vice presidents at the highest level. They also take care of home when Black men are incarcerated at rates significantly higher than all other groups. And this woman, two generations removed from enslavement, one of seven children, raised in a two-parent home in Milwaukee, stands tall today as a leader responsible for championing diversity, equity and inclusion for a global power company. I gain strength from my brave and courageous ancestors who survived unimaginable odds and created a foundation for me to thrive today.

My family has persevered

To celebrate Black History Month this year, I encourage you to honor your colleagues, your friends and your neighbors who make up Black Families. They are both deserving of our recognition for the past they have endured and of our support for their present and future contributions to our company, the communities we operate in and society.

This is what families do. 
 

Cummins Office Building

Cummins Inc.

Cummins is a global power leader that designs, manufactures, sells and services diesel and alternative fuel engines from 2.8 to 95 liters, diesel and alternative-fueled electrical generator sets from 2.5 to 3,500 kW, as well as related components and technology. Cummins serves its customers through its network of 600 company-owned and independent distributor facilities and more than 7,200 dealer locations in over 190 countries and territories.

Pass legislation that ensures permanent protection for Dreamers

Tom Linebarger - Cummins Inc.

This op-ed also appears in The Indianapolis Star

In the wake of President Biden’s inauguration, leaders of both political parties have called for unity to help us heal and move beyond the actions that have divided people across our country in recent years.

For me, unity means bringing diverse people together to create communities that are more economically and socially vibrant, and inclusive and welcoming to all people. 

As the leader of Cummins Inc., a Fortune 150 global power leader that has been headquartered in Southern Indiana for more than 100 years, I have seen firsthand how diversity drives innovation, creates jobs and raises the quality of life in the cities and towns where our employees live and work.

Our company and our communities have benefited from the addition of hard-working, talented, and energetic people with new skills and experiences. Immigration has been a driver of economic growth, new talent and more vibrant communities.

The U.S. can demonstrate our commitment to unity by embracing the power of diversity and inclusion and supporting policies that provide opportunities for all people to prosper.

From infrastructure like railroads to innovations like the N95 mask, for generations our country’s success has been driven by contributions from immigrants who have used their talent, hard work, skills and experiences to build our country.

Immigration has helped grow our resilient economy since the founding of the U.S., and we as citizens have benefited from it, but the system is broken and urgently needs reform.

I realize that not everyone shares these views – but nearly all of us who lead organizations, both big and small, know the overwhelmingly positive effect that immigration has had on our companies and our communities. 

I strongly urge the Administration and Congress to take one immediate and decisive step to unify our country. Start by passing legislation that ensures permanent protection for “Dreamers” or codifies the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

President Biden has already issued an executive order to “preserve and fortify” DACA, but additional legislative action is required to provide a pathway to citizenship. 

Dreamers, including many who work for Cummins, have built careers, raised families and contributed to U.S companies, universities and communities. According to the National Immigration Forum, over the next 10 years, Dreamers who have DACA will contribute an estimated $433.4 billion to our economy and $12.3 billion to Social Security and Medicare if they can continue to work legally in the U.S. 

Congress will have significant debate as we work toward comprehensive immigration reform. Immigration reform is a major challenge and needs broad congressional support to ensure that the solution is sustained over the long term.

However, as an urgent and interim and unifying measure, let’s focus on something on which we all can agree - we need to do right by Dreamers. They arrived on our soil as children and have done nothing wrong.

They are Americans. They’ve grown up here, attended school and are significant contributors to our economy and society; some have even served our country in the military. Let’s remove the fear and uncertainty now and put them on a path to citizenship.

We need an immigration system that works for U.S. families, grows our economy, and strengthens communities by welcoming immigrants who seek to contribute as critical partners of our society. As we set our sights on comprehensive immigration reform, let’s take action now on DACA. This has broad public and bipartisan support and it can only benefit us all. We also believe this is the right thing to do.

We call on the incoming Administration and new Congress to begin the healing by enacting DACA, permanently protecting Dreamers and reshaping our immigration system into one that works for everyone. If we do this, not only will we signal that we are one country, we will also provide a catalyst for job creation and economic growth that can put America on the path for prosperity and unity.  

Tom Linebarger Chairman and CEO

Tom Linebarger

Tom Linebarger became Chairman and CEO of Cummins Inc., the largest independent maker of diesel engines and related products in the world, on January 1, 2012.  Prior to becoming Chairman and CEO, he served as President and COO from 2008 to 2011, Executive Vice President and President, Power Generation Business from 2003 to 2008, Vice President and Chief Financial Officer from 2000 to 2003, and Vice President, Supply Chain Management from 1998 to 2000.

Cummins named Best-of-the-Best Corporations for Inclusion by NBIC

Cummins DBU HQ

The National Business Inclusion Consortium (NBIC) has identified its fifth annual cohort of Best-of-the-Best list of corporations in America committed to diversity and inclusion across all communities. Cummins is among just 50 companies named to the overall list, and was one of just five finalists for NBIC’s Best-of-the-Best program or Initiative of the Year award. 

“The Best-of-the-Best designation honors corporations for their commitment to America’s diverse employees and business owners, which includes LGBT people, people of color, women, and people with disabilities,” said NGLCC Co-Founder and President Justin Nelson. “This designation is highly competitive and is bestowed only to corporations that we see constantly striving to strengthen and celebrate diversity. These corporations being honored are true leaders in ongoing global commitments to create a better future for all diverse communities in business.” 

Cummins has a long legacy of commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, and the company recognizes diversity and inclusion as one of its six core values. Cummins understands that businesses owned by diverse suppliers help contribute to the overall economic growth and wellbeing of the communities in which we live and work. We also understand that establishing strategic partnerships with suppliers helps create value for our stakeholders and provides us with a competitive advantage. Collaborating with such businesses to provide goods and services to our company creates a cross-cultural competency that only comes from multiple perspectives.

“We are proud to be a part of a culture valuing diversity and inclusion,” said Helena Hutton, Director of Global Diversity Procurement – Center of Excellence at Cummins.

“This recognition emphasizes Cummins’ dedication and commitment to drive action for an inclusive environment for suppliers and our employees.” 

In addition to Cummins, other Fortune 500 companies receiving recognition include: ADP, Anthem Inc., Bank of America, Comcast NBCUniversal, FedEx, General Mills, IBM Corporation, Johnson & Johnson, Kellogg Company, Merck, Sony Pictures Entertainment, The Coca-Cola Company, The Walt Disney Company and Toyota.

“Demonstrating commitment to diversity is not only the right thing to do, but it’s also the smartest thing to do for businesses large and small,” said NGLCC Co-Founder and CEO Chance Mitchell. “The select group of Fortune 500 companies honored with a Best-of-the-Best designation are innovators and trailblazers for inclusion and are constantly raising the bar forward for themselves, their peers, and their competitors. While we pause to honor some extraordinary leaders at the Best-of-the-Best gala, the great work of ensuring opportunity for all us is a year-round commitment. We look forward to working with all of these great companies for decades to come in shaping a more inclusive economy for all.”

NGLCC formed the National Business Inclusion Consortium in 2011, and its members represent a total of over $9 trillion in annual economic strength along with significant contributions to the marketplace and workplace. Only companies achieving industry-leading results across all diverse segments are eligible to receive the prestigious Best-of-the-Best designation from the NBIC, whose members include the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC); Disability:IN; National Minority Supplier Development Council; National Veteran-Owned Business Association; United States Black Chambers, Inc.; United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; United States Pan Asian American Chamber of Commerce; WEConnect International; Women Impacting Public Policy; and Women’s Business Enterprise National Council.

The presentation of those honored with the Best-of-the-Best designation was made at the fifth annual Best-of-the-Best Awards Gala. 
 

Cummins Office Building

Cummins Inc.

Cummins is a global power leader that designs, manufactures, sells and services diesel and alternative fuel engines from 2.8 to 95 liters, diesel and alternative-fueled electrical generator sets from 2.5 to 3,500 kW, as well as related components and technology. Cummins serves its customers through its network of 600 company-owned and independent distributor facilities and more than 7,200 dealer locations in over 190 countries and territories.

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