Q&A With Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer Nzinga Shaw

As part of the Hawks committment to the city of Atlanta and being a positive force for change in the community, the team recently made good on a promise to hire the sports world's first ever Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, Nzinga Shaw. We recently caught up with Shaw, who previously served as SVP of Diversity & Inclusion at Edelman, the world's largest public relations firm, to get a sense for what her vision is for the new position.

Hawks.com: The Hawks made it a priority to add this position – how do you define diversity and inclusion?

Nzinga Shaw: We define diversity & inclusion as an environment in which differences are valued and integrated into every part of our organization’s operation. We are building a supportive culture where everyone can experience equity of opportunity for personal and organizational success. Our ultimate objective is for diversity & inclusion to become a permanent institutionalized part of the way business operations are conducted on a daily basis.

Hawks.com: What do you feel is missing in most diversity strategies today?

NS: Most diversity strategies do not focus on infusing diversity at all levels of the organization, particularly in the senior ranks. In order to have a comprehensive diversity & inclusion strategy, there must be broad-based representation of all employees at decision and policy making levels. In the past, companies relegated the diversity & inclusion function under the human resources umbrella, limiting exposure and reach, and minimizing senior leaders’ level of accountability for success in this area. Now, we are learning that diversity & inclusion can be a strategic partner to the talent development function, but can also serve as an important resource for revenue generation and external partnerships, but it must be championed and embodied at the top.

Hawks.com: What will you do to achieve those goals?

NS: In my role as the Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer, I will help our organization continue to rebuild trust and partnership in the Atlanta community, emphasizing civility, sportsmanship, and human decency in an effort to ensure that everyone can be a fan of the team, attend home games, and so that we can serve as a model for inclusion in the NBA. Specifically, I plan to partner with organizational leaders, community partners and emerging communities to build sustainable programs that leverage our strengths and establish our organization as an employer and partner of choice in the NBA.

Hawks.com: What is a fun fact about you?

NS: I have never owned or used an alarm clock in my entire life. All of my family and friends are astonished by my ability to wake up early every day without the use of a buzzer, cell phone, etc. I know it sounds crazy, but it’s true. Also, I have never been late to work or missed a flight due to oversleeping.

Hawks.com: What inspires you?

NS: I am inspired by amputees that have learned how to overcome their limb differences. In the past, I had a coworker that lost her arm due to an amputation after a horrible boating accident at the age of 17. Now, she is a spokeswoman who advocates for blood donations and she volunteers as a counselor for children with amputations or limb differences. Her story further reinforces the notion that something that can be perceived as a difference can be leveraged for professional and personal strength.