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FreightWaves 3PL Summit: How a FedEx exec stepped up amid racial unrest (with video)

Ramona Hood steered her division to embrace change and inclusion after killing of George Floyd

Ramona Hood, the president and CEO of FedEx Custom Critical (left) with La Toya Palmer, manager director for legal and human resources. Photo: FreightWaves)

Ramona Hood, the president and CEO of FedEx Custom Critical, assembled her management team after protests erupted following George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis in police custody. The first priority: Communicate with the fleet. The second: Respond to the larger movement fighting racial and social injustice.

For Hood, it was deeply personal. In 2020, she became the first Black woman to lead a FedEx division, and she has two adult daughters. 

“As an African-American mother, as a leader of a company that values diversity, I was compelled to condemn racism and injustice,” Hood said during the FreightWaves 3PL Summit on Tuesday. She talked with La Toya Palmer, FedEx Custom Critical’s managing director for legal and human resources.

As the unrest spread to cities across the U.S., Hood drafted a message to the wider FedEx Custom Critical team. 

“In that message, I reaffirmed FedEx Custom Critical’s commitment to live our values, which include diversity and inclusion,” Hood said. 

Reinforcing the message: a FedEx-wide letter from Chairman and CEO Fred Smith and President and Chief Operating Officer Raj Subramaniam. They called on employees to embrace kindness and empathy, and highlighted the diversity of the company’s workforce. About 49% of employees and 35% of managers are minorities, according to FedEx.

Hood’s message, however, was just a first step. She held town hall meetings that week. Beyond condemning racism and social injustice, Hood used the platform to discuss concrete next steps for the organization.

FedEx Custom Critical began taking steps to enhance its diversity and inclusion strategy under Palmer’s leadership. 

The FedEx division also established a resource center to help educate employees about racial and social injustice. A voluntary 21-day challenge for employees included topical readings and podcasts with group discussions. 

Beyond FedEx Custom Critical’s own efforts, Hood said the wider transportation industry needs to do more to improve diversity and inclusion. She pointed to recent U.S. labor statistics, which show that the transportation and utilities sector’s workforce is more than 70% white.

“We all have to address this situation that’s been unfolding for hundreds of years, not just the past two months,” Hood said. 

Click for more FreightWaves articles by Nate Tabak.

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Nate Tabak

Nate Tabak is a Toronto-based journalist and producer who covers cybersecurity and cross-border trucking and logistics for FreightWaves. He spent seven years reporting stories in the Balkans and Eastern Europe as a reporter, producer and editor based in Kosovo. He previously worked at newspapers in the San Francisco Bay Area, including the San Jose Mercury News. He graduated from UC Berkeley, where he studied the history of American policing. Contact Nate at [email protected]