SBJ/Sept. 11-17, 2017/Game Changers

Nzinga Shaw, Atlanta Hawks and Philips Arena

Photo by: KAT GODUCO PHOTOGRAPHY / KATGODUCO.COM

T
hree years into her job as the Atlanta Hawks’ chief diversity and inclusion officer, Nzinga Shaw continues to wield influence both inside the Hawks front office and in the Atlanta community.

Nzinga Shaw
Atlanta Hawks and Philips Arena // Senior vice president, chief diversity and inclusion officer
The Hawks are the only one of the NBA’s 30 teams to have a chief diversity officer position, and since she was hired in December 2014, Shaw has quickly and effectively deepened the team’s relationship within the Atlanta community.

Consider that the Hawks last year held their inaugural Unity Weekend that included a day of service by team employees and a Unity Game between the Hawks and the Cleveland Cavaliers. Prior to the game, players, coaches and fans linked arms for the national anthem inside Philips Arena to stand united with the players for the preseason game.

The team also is an active participant in the Atlanta Pride parade and is aligning itself to the local LGBT and Hispanic communities as it continues to deepen engagement in those areas.

“It is using sports as a platform to unite change and have respectful conversations,” Shaw said.

The Hawks under Shaw’s guidance also have developed their Mosaic: Race and Gender in Sports event, an annual half-day symposium that addresses diversity and inclusion issues.

“It is an ongoing vehicle to talk about things that sports can advance in greater society,” Shaw said. “These conversations are so important and we have seen them grow year to year. We are proud of the program and what people are taking away from it.”

— John Lombardo



  • Where born: Brooklyn.
  • Education: Spelman College, B.A.; University of Pennsylvania, M.A.; Oxford University.
  • Attribute I look for when hiring: Someone that can be honest about their flaws and areas for improvement. Being a “perfectionist” is not a real flaw.
  • Networking tip I’ve learned: To be as authentic as possible. People are less likely to engage with you for the long term if you start off the relationship as a sales pitch.
  • Best advice I’ve received for career development: Take feedback for what it is: a gift that was offered to help you get better tomorrow than you are today.
  •  Sports business industry can foster a healthier work-life balance by: Offering on-site child care services for employees. Oftentimes, we must work long hours during game evenings and having access to our Family Room at the Hawks has made my job so much easier. We employ trusted child care providers, which takes the guesswork out of securing ongoing babysitting.
  •  If I had it to do over again: I wouldn’t change a thing. The ups and downs, triumphs and mistakes have shaped me into the woman that I am.
  • Woman in sports business I’d most like to meet: I would like to meet Indra Nooyi, president and chief executive of PepsiCo. She has defined a compelling case why women are integral to the overall health of the sports business. We are athletes, coaches, consumers, and fans. She fights for equity and has gone far beyond marketing “pink” campaigns.
  • Is discussion about challenges women face working in sports necessary or played out? The discussion is still necessary because there are major equity issues when evaluating gender in sports. We are not in a post-gender society, and until women have equal access to pay, stretch assignments and executive/C-suite roles, we need to keep the conversation going.
  • Charity supported: I am on the board of directors of youthSpark, an independent 501(c)3 that transforms the lives of youth at risk for exploitation and abuse, and a thought leader in reducing child exploitation and sex trafficking rates across the country.

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