When Juliane Hefel first moved to Detroit in 2017, she had only ever visited the United States twice and knew relatively little about her new city, especially when it came to its history and deep African American roots. Originally from Austria, she first joined Henkel in 2006 and had the opportunity to live in various countries, including a three-year stint in Shanghai, China, before taking on the role of Vice President Automotive OEM Americas, Adhesives Technologies, in Madison Heights, MI. Upon arriving, Juliane dove right in, moving to the heart of downtown Detroit where she had a crash course in diverse, urban American living. From taking in the culture at museums to forming new social circles and joining community groups, she embraced her new home to learn more about her colleagues and community.
As she spent more time in the community and with her colleagues, Juliane’s learned more about the history of mistreatment and the many issues that continue to impact the Black community. It was through education and conversations with her colleagues and community members that she gained a deeper understanding of the continued impact of racism and how we each have a responsibility to help bring about change.
With awareness, you are able to create change. We can’t change what we don’t know so we must build this awareness through open and honest dialogue and by sharing experiences so we can learn from one another. There is a tremendous wealth of knowledge that comes from learning about and tapping into other cultures.
Juliane Hefel, Vice President Automotive OEM Americas, Adhesives Technologies
Keeping with her approach to life and a philosophy of always wanting to learn, embrace new ideas, reevaluate perceptions and absorb cultural norms, when Juliane was presented with an opportunity to become the executive sponsor for the African-American Alliance of Metropolitan Detroit (AAAMD) ERG, she seized the opportunity. Formed in 2008, the small but mighty ERG team engages their colleagues at Henkel’s Madison Heights location to inspire open dialogue, raise awareness and create opportunities for mentoring and career development of Black employees. They are also a visible presence in the local Detroit community through volunteerism and fund-raiser events such as the United Negro College Fund’s (UNCF) Walk for Education.
The AAAMD ERG celebrates Juneteenth every year to raise understanding of Black Americans’ contributions to history and to make a difference in the community. They typically hold a BBQ to raise funds for UNCF and since COVID-19, have organized virtual ways for employees to get involved. This year they are holding a virtual educational event for all employees. “In working with ERG members, I realize that Juneteenth is a day to commemorate the liberation of enslaved people so they could have the freedom to live like everyone else and to celebrate the historic contributions of Black Americans,” she says. “This is something everyone deserves.”