As part of the Dean’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Speaker Series and in celebration of Black History Month, Dean Maryam Alavi hosted a virtual conversation with Nzinga Shaw, president and global head of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at TurnkeyZRG, an executive recruiting firm specializing in the sports and entertainment industry. Shaw is also the former chief inclusion and diversity officer for Edelman, Marsh McLennan, Starbucks, and the Atlanta Hawks.
Shaw detailed how she was inspired to become involved in DE&I by recounting a story of a personal tragedy in her life in which a family member was unfairly labeled and misunderstood for who he was before and after death. She vowed then that she’d dedicate her life to inclusivity.
“I felt compelled to become the voice of the voiceless. And I promised myself that in my uncle’s honor, I would challenge societal norms and demonstrate allyship to others,” she noted.
Shaw talked about professional experiences in which diversity was nonexistent and provided examples of when organizations recognized the need to develop a diverse and inclusive environment but didn’t have the infrastructure to support specific initiatives.
“Where organizations fail,” she explained, “is not recognizing that all people want love and acceptance and many fall down on this.” In fact, her first suggestion to organizations wanting to start a DE&I program is to “just listen.”
One of the key points she made was describing the difference between equality and equity. She explained that equality implies that an organization offers the same tools and resources to everyone. This often doesn’t work because individuals don’t start at the same place in their lives. Equity, on the other hand, means meeting people where they’re at and offering different tools to different people so they can reach their full potential.
Shaw described the importance of looking at organizations holistically rather than by performance-based practices and to ensure that DE&I is embedded in an organization’s fabric. Creating a DE&I program is not for client interactions and revenue generation, but a lived experience for those in the organization, she explained.
Shaw ended her talk with three points to remember when creating and sustaining a successful diversity, equity, and inclusion program within an organization.
- Ensure there is fairness in every process.
- Go deep into the supply chain to ensure equitable opportunities are given to others.
- Ensure that everyone has access to reach their maximum potential.
Dean Alavi’s conversation with Shaw is available in its entirety in the video below.