As a child growing up in a Chicago suburb, Ashley Everson knew she wanted to work in a profession that would allow her to help people. At first, she thought she’d pursue a medical profession, but after working in human resources at a local hospital during college, she embraced a new path. Luckily for her, dreams do come true.
“I’ve always been energized by the chance to positively impact people. It’s in my nature,” says Everson, vice president of HR at HAVI. “HR as a career seemed to find me. I feel fortunate to have a unique opportunity to touch lives while creating a path for the business to succeed.”
After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in health planning and administration as well as a master’s degree in HR and industrial relations from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, she found work at The Hertz Corporation. There, she met women who would inspire her to think globally.
“I’m fortunate to have had great leaders supporting me even in the early days of my career,” she says. “At Hertz, I met several female role models who challenged me to think beyond my traditional borders. One of those individuals was Vanessa Flynn, a global talent acquisition leader based in Dublin, Ireland, who was Mauritius-born and had grown up in South Africa. Appreciating her life experience and world views, I knew I wanted to work in a global setting.”
After five years at Hertz, she accepted a position at global supply-chain and analytics leader HAVI as a senior HR representative, and in April 2019, she marked the tenth anniversary of joining HAVI. Today, she’s actively steering the company’s diversity and inclusion (D&I) initiative and using her influence to impact change on a global scale.
“HAVI and the people I interact with have made the world a much smaller place for me,” she says. “We have more than ten thousand employees globally and customers in more than one hundred markets. Our business model requires that we appreciate the uniqueness of our customer base and that we reflect that global diversity. Whether in the US, Poland, Japan, or any of our other markets, our goal is to attract, retain, and unleash the full potential of our people. Understanding the local nature of that challenge is what keeps me here.”
According to Everson, D&I is a core value at HAVI, but the opportunity to harness the impact of D&I became much more apparent after it conducted a large-scale survey of its employees in 2017. Everson says that she, with the help of Jill Ahern and Kirsten Love, members of their commercial advanced analytics team, chose to use the findings to encourage change at the company.
“In terms of data and numbers, we were struck by the glaring disparity in employee experience as cut by different demographics—most notably gender on a global scale and ethnicity within the US,” Everson says. “We have a global footprint and may be diverse in certain dimensions, but in order for diversity to thrive, we needed to double down on our focus on inclusion.”
Her efforts led the CEO to issue a strategic imperative and commitment to action. With the C-suite fully engaged, Everson has secured funding to support D&I initiatives such as designing for inclusion, executive education, and employee-led workshops and to partner with consultants to help frame D&I at HAVI for long-term impact.
While she doesn’t have all the answers yet, she has identified three objectives to ensure a return on the investment, starting with improving transparency and establishing clear direction from management, empowering local action by using local champions and advisors and, finally, investing to build diversified career experiences for employees. “This is a key milestone,” Everson says. “Truthfully, we’re still novices at this.”
Throughout her career, Everson says, she has focused on listening more and leading with empathy. She credits this and the trust of her team for her success. “Walking a moment in someone else’s shoes can lead you much further than walking a mile in your own” she says. As the working-mother of two young girls, seven and nine years old, she’s happy knowing the work she’s doing will not only impact her organization but also her daughters’ generation as well.