Scheller College of Business hosted executives from McKinsey & Company, The Coca-Cola Company, and Atlanta Hawks & Philips Arena to discuss how future leaders can create impact, unlock innovation, and drive market growth through diversity and inclusion. The panel, held on Wednesday, April 12, included guest panelists:
- Nzinga Shaw, chief diversity and inclusion officer with the Atlanta Hawks & Philips Arena
- Ashley Berg Jensen, vice president, diversity, inclusion, and engagement with The Coca-Cola Company
- David Frank, partner with McKinsey & Company
Diversity, inclusion, and engagement are not only the right things to do from a social perspective, they are also smart things to do from business and economic perspectives, said Scheller College Dean Maryam Alavi, who served as the moderator of the panel.
“Markets are now global and highly diverse,” said Alavi. “It makes sense that corporate employees and leadership reflect and embrace the external diversity as well in order to effectively reach and serve diverse markets.”
She continued, “Shifts in labor markets, globalization, and rapid technological advances are creating an innovation imperative for all organizations.”
A packed room of community and business leaders, along with students, faculty, alumni, and staff, gathered for the inspiring dialogue. Panelists discussed how diversity is measured and promoted by leadership in an organization.
“Diversity is defined by our differences and inclusion is valuing those differences,” said Berg Jensen. “It’s a quantitative and qualitative process.”
She emphasized that authentic leadership--which models and allows everyone to be who they are--is key to promoting diversity. “We have a system of checks and balances, councils, and developmentally focused groups that advise leadership and drives a culture of fairness,” Berg Jensen said. “There is a business case for diversity. If you consider the collective buying power that we all represent in this room and don’t think about each group represented as you go to the marketplace, you are missing out.”
Frank agreed and observed that an example of inclusion starts at the top. As an illustration, Frank pointed out that he wore a pink-colored shirt to commemorate the Day of Pink. The international day rallies against bullying, discrimination, homophobia, transphobia, and transmisogyny across the world.
“There are some diversity profiles that are easy to see,” Frank added. “But oftentimes it’s the diversity of background and intellect that helps to problem solve. You must bring diversity in all its forms to have genuine inclusion.”
Frank shared that it can be difficult for traditional organizations to embrace diversity and talked about ways McKinsey is handling those issues. “A diverse environment can sometimes lead to miscommunication. To help bridge these communication gaps, during performance evaluations we have an objective ‘challenger’ in the room to raise a flag for differences and help make sure unconscious bias doesn’t enter into the conversation.”
Shaw said that at the Atlanta Hawks & Philips Arena, they see inclusion as “leveraging everyone’s unique talents to build a stronger community.”
She described the importance of strategic recruitment and retention efforts in organizations.
“If you don’t have people in the organization that represent the people you are trying to recruit, it’s harder to recruit,” Shaw said. “You have to show people that there is a road up. Mentorships are important to successfully maneuver a corporate environment and teach cross cultural competency.”
As the first person to hold her position within the National Basketball Association, Shaw is working to reach deep into the community to understand the cultural differences before they go to market. From renovating basketball courts in underserved areas in Atlanta to partnering with schools to teach leadership and teamwork through basketball at recess, Shaw’s work is helping to foster respectful dialogue and unite people through sports.
“Successful businesses and organizations must attract and retain the best talent from all types of labor pools to innovate and grow,” Alavi said. “To take full advantage of a diverse and inclusive work environment, organizations need to develop internal capabilities for effective communications and teamwork.”
The event was made possible in collaboration with the following Scheller College groups: Blacks in Business; Faculty, Administration and Office of the Dean; MBA Programs; MBA Women in Business; Net Impact Club; ADVANCE Program; Scheller Philanthropy; Scheller Pride; Staff Development Council; Undergraduate Program; and Veterans MBA Club.