Ericka Mendez

2020 STEP Ahead Honoree

General Manager, Press and Body Weld Operations
Toyota Motor North America

Manufacturing allows us to innovate our processes, giving us unlimited opportunities to develop our people to reach their full potential. My passion is to build higher quality vehicles for our customers while refining an agile and flexible culture which will enable us to transform from a vehicle manufacturer into a leading mobility company.

Ericka has been a force for change since she began working at Toyota Motor Manufacturing de Baja California (TMMBC), Toyota ́s first Mexican manufacturing facility, in 2003. Overcoming age-old stereotypes about female roles, in 2010 she became the first woman in a management position. As body weld assistant manager, she quickly improved efficiency without adding investment or automation. And when TMMBC struggled with a hood levelness issue, Ericka’s team generated an innovative solution that Toyota shared with all its North American plants. While assistant manager, Ericka also led TMMBC ́s largest-ever model change, which helped reinforce the importance of diversity in leadership roles. Today, at Toyota’s new plant in Guanajuato, she is acting general manager of press and body weld, the first female ever in a manufacturing executive role in Toyota ́s Mexico Operations.

In 2016, TMMBC was struggling to hire and retain women. In her previous role as a human resource manager, Ericka instituted outreach programs and adjusted the testing process, increasing the number of women from 14 percent to 18 percent in two years. Next, she developed strategies to retain and develop female talent. Her team created a program for first-time mothers, child-care bonuses and other incentives. Ericka successfully leveraged the talent management process to position female leaders in challenging assignments to speed their development. In 2018, Ericka was asked to speak at the Women in Leadership conference in Mexico City, where she proudly shared her experiences as a female leader in manufacturing with women from all across Mexico.

Ericka also plays a key role in organizing the company’s volunteer initiatives. As a human resource manager, she expanded the TMMBC annual Toy Drive to include Patronato Hospital General de Tijuana, a foundation that provides temporary housing for pediatric cancer patients and their families. This engaged TMMBC team members more deeply in the Tijuana community and led many to volunteer at the house and increase their contributions.