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“We are called upon to do more”: DEI pioneer Nzinga Shaw on the growth of an industry movement

Few people are as well-positioned to have witnessed these changes as Shaw. Now the president of TurnkeyZRG, the sports & entertainment search firm acquired by ZRG in 2020 – as well as being the chief inclusion & diversity officer for ZRG – she has also spearheaded DEI at Edelman, the NBA, Starbucks, and Marsh McLennan.

And she will be sharing insights from her remarkable career so far when she takes the stage as keynote speaker at Women in Insurance Atlanta on April 07.

She certainly has a lot of stories to tell – from her time implementing DEI at both large and small companies alike.

“Oftentimes, big companies are highly matrixed and have a lot of cooks in the kitchen,” she mused. “It can be challenging to get meaningful initiatives off the ground … when you must go through several rounds of approvals and stamps.

“At smaller, private companies, it is easy to launch a new initiative or program because the levels of hierarchy and final decision-making are minimal. Larger organizations look at every detail through a microscope and oftentimes undermine their own goals by getting too far in the weeds.”

It sounds like there are different DEI challenges from company to company … but do they require all manner of varying ‘bespoke’ solutions? Or is there a certain universality at play?

“I think that there can be a combination of these factors depending on the organization,” Shaw explained. “Yes, there are universal human needs like belonging and love, but there are also unique DEI challenges in each organization based on the demographic sets and other nuances that individuals exhibit.”

One across-the-board solution that Shaw advocates – and will be discussing in her presentation – is something she has labelled ‘multi-dimensional diversity’.

So – what does this mean exactly?

“Multi-dimensional diversity describes the unique characteristics that people bring to the table outside of the factors that they cannot control such as race, gender, sexual orientation, and so on,” Shaw said. “It takes it one step further and looks at parental status, marital status, geographic location, religion, education, etc. Human beings are multifaceted and live dynamic lives. Multidimensional diversity also delves into the intersections that many people share.”

With a stellar track record in the field of DEI – as well as stellar analysis – Shaw is determined to work towards a vision of the future in which DEI takes even more of the spotlight.

The question is: how can this be achieved?

“DEI is not simply a human issue, but it is also a business concern,” she reflected. “It is critical to keep in mind the intersection between the ‘good for business’ logic and the human good.

“In 2022 and beyond, we are called upon to do more. America has always relied upon private industry to step up in times of trouble – be those wars, fires, or depressions – and to help solve the most pressing of problems. Perhaps this is the time for corporate America to launch a new phase in its unparalleled history of innovation and ingenuity: the social justice phase!”

Women in Insurance Atlanta will be taking place at the Sheraton Atlanta Hotel on April 07, 2022.

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